HITECH, the health IT portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, of course is stirring up widespread interest in EMRs, particularly around whether a system will help healthcare organizations achieve "meaningful use." That only makes sense, since that is the standard by which one can qualify for federal EMR subsidies. But is the focus on meaningful use distracting people from a higher goal, namely leveraging EMRs to improve patient care and lower healthcare costs? Possibly.
Though it may seem like we're wading into uncharted waters, we here in America do have some lessons to learn about best practices in EMR adoption from various European countries. So far, a Computer Sciences Corp. report says, we're doing things the right way. "But there are still many tough decisions we haven't faced yet. We're moving in the right direction, and we can look at what other countries have done," writes CSC researcher Fran Turisco.
The U.S., with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the helm, is rightfully setting clear objectives, involving a wide range of industry stakeholders, seeking to measure value via the still-under-development definition of "meaningful use" and providing financial incentives. Still, it's unclear whether our highly fragmented system will allow Americans to tread the same path as countries with higher rates of EMR adoption such as the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands.