Meaningful Use Challenges: the Small Practitioner

2As part of the HITECH incentives to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), eligible physician’s EHR systems must meet the Meaningful Use Stage 2 (MU2) final rule. This includes supporting the interfaces needed to transmit 10 percent of their “transitions of care” documents electronically. Yet, most small practitioners don’t have an IT staff.

For many independent general practitioners (GPs) and clinicians, doing this on their own is not a choice. There are many technical obstacles and the costs can be high. The challenges are compounded since most GPs and clinicians must share patient records with multiple hospitals and specialists, all of which may use different EHR systems that do not work together seamlessly. Addressing the issue once is costly and hard enough, but working with multiple specialists and organizations would require repeating the process and dealing with the interoperability issues of each EHR solution. This is time-consuming and costly, and none of these efforts help with securely sharing information with patients.

The Direct Project

Running a practice should not require having an IT staff (and budget) comparable to a hospital’s just to consult with specialists and advise patients. What is needed is a way to ensure secure exchange of patient data, regardless of the EHR system being used. And enabling this level of communications should not require a great investment or special technology skills.

This is an area where those in healthcare should look for help from their EHR providers. Specifically, they should be sure an EHR provider supports an industry effort called the Direct Project.

The Direct Project is an open government initiative started by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The ONC describes Direct as a set of standards, policies and services that define how protected health information (PHI) can be securely exchanged or transported via the Internet. Its goal is to facilitate secure communication across practices and health networks. Direct is part of the MU2 requirements. (READ FULL WHITE PAPER)

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