An article in Information Week goes in some detail about how Federal stimulus funds will supply incentives for doctors to adopt IT-based solutions, up to $30,000 per physician. Here’s an excerpt:
“The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act makes $2 billion available immediately for loans and grants to help health care providers implement electronic health records systems and to fund research into the use of various health systems. It also provides more than $17 billion for new programs rewarding doctors and hospitals over the next five years for the ‘meaningful’ use of e-health records systems.
Exactly what constitutes meaningful use will be spelled out by the new secretary of health. Basic requirements specified so far mandate that health care providers use certified e-records products and e-prescriptions, and that they be able to electronically exchange clinical data and report data about the quality of clinical care to government health agencies.”
It may be a difficult job to sort out which digital solutions applied to the field of medicene promote quality patient care. Looking at medical operations both large and small, a paperless environment makes vast improvement in the efficiency with much less potential for error. Many of the certified software products mentioned in the Information Week article involve network sharing of patient records between doctors, specialists, and hospitals. This definition, for the purposes of grant funding, has been extended to network systems between doctors and pharmacies.
While this sort of electronic data sharing is undoubtedly useful, these e-health networks are only the tip of the iceberg on how digital tools can transform the current health care system.
And if you look closely into the operation of even a small medical clinic, there is an incredible volume of phone calls, messages, faxes, prescription requests, transcriptions, insurance forms, billing, bookkeeping, and so on. All these internal processes – tracking contact events, tracking status of reports in workflow, and handling of health care payments — can be streamlined through electronic document management.
For a good example, Cypress Heart cardiology posts patient reports in an EHR system, but lacked a way to keep track of documents in process as they changed hands between physicians and transcriptionists. With M-Files document management software, Cypress Heart took command over the workflow to create reports faster and with better accuracy.
Also look into NW Healthcare on how an easy and affordable document management system enabled them to connect their current e-records system and billing databases to organize all paperwork in the practice digitally.
As the government requests that health care providers link externally, they should also consider the value of efficiencies developed by digital tools inside the medical organization.
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