HHS launches era of health care connectivity

October 17, 2012

Stage 2 Meaningful Use standards for the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs are intended to result in “a giant leap in data exchange,” according to Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the federal government’s National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The Stage 2 EHR utilization criteria will effectively require health care practitioners to begin actively exchanging patient information with each other in the course of day-to-day care as well as providing more patients with information on their health status through electronic media, as a way of helping to engage them in their care.

The Stage 2 rules also increase the percentage of patients for whom various EHR functions such are used.

The Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rules define 11 types of information (patient name, encounter diagnosis, medication, etc.) that must be included in all summaries of care records transferred among practitioners.

Health care practitioners will be required to electronically send a summary of care record with the required information for at least half of referred or transferred patients.

The care summaries for at least 10 percent of referred or transferred patients must be transmitted electronically through a health information exchange (HIE) or in an electronic format meeting federal standards such as NwHIN Direct.

The requirement is designed to ensure that practitioners are electronically transmitting care summaries to entities with no organizations or vendor affiliation.

Practitioners will also be required to, at least once, successfully transfer a care summary to a recipient with an EHR system developed or designed by an EHR supplier other than the practitioner’s. Practitioners who cannot find such a recipient will be able to use a special government-designated test EHR.

The Stage 2 objectives require practitioners to establish patient portals through which they can provide patients with the ability to view online, download, and transmit their health information. More than 50 percent of patients seen during the course of an EHR incentive program reporting period must be provided electronic access to their health care information within four days of their office visit. In addition, five percent of patients must actually view, download or transmit their information from the patient portal.

Practitioners must also use secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information.

At least 5 percent of the patients seen in a practice during an EHR incentive program reporting period must be sent a secure message using the practice EHR system’s messaging function.

The HHS believes patient portals will eventually become an integral part of health care practice and an important component in patient-practitioner communications.

AOAExcel early next year plans to offer a new XNetwork service will that will provide all of the secure record transfer, patient portal and patient messaging services required for Stage 2 EHR Meaningful Use Standards.

For additional information on the Stage 2 EHR criteria, see the AOA website EHR page (www.aoa.org/ehr).

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