Hospital electronic records adoption jumps, but still low

Teaching hospitals have a greater likelihood of meeting Stage 1 meaningful use criteria

New research from a healthcare industry organization reported an increase of 16 percentage points, from 25% to 41%, in the number of hospitals being well-positioned to meet the first stage of meaningful use of electronic medical records (EMRs).

The study, by HIMSS Analytics (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), showed that 10% of all U.S. hospitals are now ready to achieve what is known as Stage 1 of meaningful use.

HIMSS based its results on how high hospitals ranked on its Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM), which marks progress in completing eight levels for creating a paperless patient record system.

"We see hospitals working across the country to meet Stage 1 of meaningful use, and we are pleased at the progress they are making, even though it varies," said John Hoyt, executive vice president of Organizational Services at HIMSS.

The study collected data at 778 hospitals from Feb. 1 to Sept. 30. Besides the 10% of hospitals ready for meaningful use qualification, the study showed that about 31% of the hospitals surveyed were "most likely" to achieve meaningful use, 53% were not likely to achieve it and 5.5% showed no progress toward that goal.

Close to half of the hospitals surveyed in the study also conducted a security risk analysis, HIMSS reported. The risk analysis helps to ensure the protection of patient health information and is required to achieve meaningful use.

The HIMSS report also showed that academic medical centers had a greater likelihood than other hospitals to have the capability to meet meaningful use criteria.

Separately, data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) showed that the number of eligible hospitals moving toward or meeting Stage 1 of meaningful use has also increased.

As of Sept. 30, the CMS reported that 2,215 eligible hospitals have registered for Medicare and Medicaid EMR incentive programs. Of those, 564 hospitals (158/Medicare and 406/Medicaid) have received payment for meeting Stage 1 of meaningful use, as of this same date.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, physicians who implement EMR systems and demonstrate that they are engaged in meaningful use of such systems can receive reimbursements of as much as $44,000 under Medicare, or as much as $65,000 under Medicaid. Hospitals can receive funds from both the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The federal government is requiring healthcare facilities eventually to achieve three stages of meaningful use of EMRs by 2016. To date, only Stage 1 of meaningful use has been defined by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC).

On average, hospitals receive about $4 million in reimbursements, but the largest single facilities can expect to receive as much as $12 million, said Dr. Mitch Morris, national leader for health IT at Deloitte Consulting.

However, Morris noted that total five-year spending by hospitals and physician practices on capital and operating costs could be two to three times what they will receive in government reimbursement payments.

"Even though the government is incentivizing this with significant money, it's not going to build the whole system," he said.

Clinicians and hospitals that have deployed EMRs must collect 90 days' worth of data from the systems and submit it to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. Morris said some facilities have already deployed EMRs and are preparing to submit their data today, but he advises that others wait.

The HIMSS study also found that hospitals with a higher rank on the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) and more beds tended to have higher adoption rates for many meaningful use criteria.

Thirty-nine percent of the hospitals in the study scored within stage 3 of the EMRAM scale, and 17% achieved either Stage 6 or 7.

Just over one-third of the hospitals, 39%, represented in this study scored within Stage 3 of the EMRAM scale, and about 17% of the respondents have achieved either Stage 6 or Stage 7 on the EMRAM model.

Hoyt said the research indicated that even hospitals achieving Stage 7 of the EMRAM model "need to remain focused on implementing all of the necessary security and privacy measures as they strive to achieve meaningful use."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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