More hospitals and physicians than ever before are using electronic health records (EHRs) to improve the health of U.S. patients, according to a July 17 press release from CMS(www.cms.gov).
The agency said new data show patients benefit when health care professionals use EHRs. CMS also noted that about 80 percent of eligible hospitals and more than half of eligible health care professionals that have implemented an EHR system have received incentive payments from Medicare or Medicaid.
According to the release, physicians and other health care professionals engaged in CMS' Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs(www.cms.gov) have "increased efficiency while safeguarding privacy and improving care for millions of patients nationwide."
A CMS spokesperson said the agency looked at internal attestation data to determine that since the implementation of the incentive programs in 2011,
- more than 190 million electronic prescriptions have been sent,
- some 4.6 million patients have received an electronic copy of their health information,
- more than 13 million electronic messages have been sent to patients to remind them of appointments and tests,
- about 40 million drug and medication interaction checks have been completed via an EHR, and
- some 4.3 million patient care summaries have been shared with other health care professionals when patients moved to other health care settings.
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, M.A., noted in the press release that EHRs are giving patients access to their health information and allowing physicians to share patient records in a safe and secure manner.
"Electronic health records are transforming relationships between patients and their health care providers," she said. "EHRs improve care coordination, reduce duplicative tests and procedures, help patients take more control of their health, and result in better overall health outcomes."
Even though the numbers look impressive, Jason Mitchell, M.D., director of the AAFP's Center for Health IT, cautioned that the figures released today simply highlight "structural measures."
For example, counting the number of electronic prescriptions sent and tabulating how many patients have received personal health data electronically is worthwhile, but those data alone fail to get to the heart of meaningful use. "After all, the point of using EHRs in a meaningful way is to change the way health care is delivered, improve outcomes and lower costs," said Mitchell.
"We appreciate that CMS is monitoring the adoption of EHRs and the application of meaningful use, but CMS certainly needs to gather additional statistics that prove the impact both are having on health outcomes," he added.
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