Meaningful Use I, and later MU II, should be viewed as laying the groundwork for electronic health record interventions which may ultimately result in improved health care. For now, though, growing adoption of digital health records seems to be accompanied by higher provider charges: CMS has documented increases approaching 4%. This may be due in large part to electronic health records’ ability to quickly document more precisely and completely all types of care provided, and to generate bills at the highest possible level of reimbursement. CMS and other health insurers are actively investigating this issue.
True advances in patient health outcomes, quality of care, and cost can only be achieved when electronic health records are used to share information across the entire care continuum from hospitals and nursing homes to rehab facilities to primary care physician offices. MU II has just begun to address this ultimate vision of population health management at the provider level, seeking to generate patient engagement by providing patients with an online information portal and access to their medication and medical histories. We should expect adoption to happen slowly: MU II objectives will be reached in 2014 or 2015 and even then providers will only need to attain 5% compliance for some critical population health functions like patient online access to health information and secure messaging.
Eventually, when most medical professionals can do things like supply discharge summary data and other pertinent medical information in electronic formats across the care continuum, we’ll begin to realize health and well-being benefits of the impending healthcare digital revolution.