E-Health Records Get Nudged ForwardBy Anna Maria Virzi Print
A U.S. commission gives its stamp of approval to 20 products designed to store and manage electronic patient records. But will doctors buy in?
A push to get U.S. physicians to use electronic patient health records cleared a milestone this week when a federal commission gave its seal of approval to 20 health record products. But analysts question how fast doctors will move to systems that support the e-health standards.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced on Tuesday that 20 health information systems from 19 vendors meet agency guidelines for features and interoperability. The certification process was conducted by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, a panel the agency contracted in the fall of 2005 for the project.
This round of certification was centered on products designed for use in physician offices and walk-in clinics--and not necessarily hospitals and other inpatient facilities--to record medical information about patients, as well as order medication and diagnostic tests and manage test results. Certification is intended to assure that the products meet standards for securely exchanging patient information and include specific features, such as the ability to note and display the identity of anyone who corrects or puts an addendum on a note on a patient record, according to the commission.
The designation "should give physicians confidence that these tools from these vendors represent some of the accepted best practices for implementing electronic medical records," says Eric Brown, a vice president at Forrester Research. "Physicians can be confident that they are not buying a product that will dead-end them in terms of technical standards."
Still, Brown points out, the benefits of interoperability will not be realized until these systems are actually adopted and in use at physician's offices. He says a barrier to adoption has been the fact that about two-thirds of all doctors in the U.S. work in practices with eight or fewer people, and as a result, don't have an information technology on staff who can assist with updating and maintaining an office's information systems.
In 2004, President Bush called for the widespread use of electronic health records within 10 years. Electronic health records are credited with reducing medical errors because patient information can be more easily obtained and reviewed than paper records.
Electronic health records can benefit a patient, for example, who is seeing more than one physician. Rather than make copies of a patient's file and have them mailed or hand-delivered, the electronic records can be transmitted from one office to another, Brown says.
Products certified for use by physicians and other walk-in care facilities are:
Two other products received conditional premarket certification: Medent 16 by Community Computer Service of Auburn, N.Y. and Medical Practice Management Client/Server 5.5 Service Release 2.1 by LSS Data Systems of Eden Prairie, Minn. The commission will consider additional submissions for certification every three months.
In 2007, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology will inspect inpatient electronic health record systems for hospitals.
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