Information and the means of communicating that data in a cost-effective, secure, user-friendly and legally compliant manner is critical in any industry. Targeted healthcare-related IT, information technology specifically designated to improve patient care and advance quality and efficiency throughout the healthcare community, is the focus of our recent blog series.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded $2.5 billion in 2011 from about $27 billion, to promote healthcare-related IT.

Separately, one requirement for being named an ACO (accountable care organization) by Medicare, is implementing state-of-the-art electronic medical record keeping. Supporters of the ACO model, and a fundamental premise of this aspect of federal policy, is that by increasing the quality of healthcare while decreasing costs, ACOs are thus eligible for meaningful financial incentives from the government.

Electronic health records (EHR) have become a virtual necessity for monitoring high-risk and chronically-ill patients, whether institutionalized or at home. Both private health care plans and Medicare are requiring improved disease management and prevention under ACO contracts that reward quality and efficiency with monetary rewards.

The proposed Stage-2 meaningful-use requirements set forth by the CMS would significantly increase the necessity of using healthcare information technology, including electronic prescriptions, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and electronic recording of patient-health measures. Under Stage 2 standards, hospitals and eligible professionals (including physicians not employed by hospitals) would be required to use CPOE for more than 60% of medication, lab and radiology orders; double the requirements under Stage 1 rulings. According to Modern Healthcare, the CPOE is one of over 12 core objectives that hospitals and EPs would need to meet to demonstrate their “meaningful use of electronic health-record systems, which would make them eligible to receive federal health IT incentive payments”.

Other Stage 2 objectives include using electronic prescriptions more than 50% of the time, recording demographic data for over 50% of patients, tracking smoking statistics for more than 80% of patients and recording vital signs for over 80% of patient encounters. In addition, Stage 2 would necessitate over half of patients be provided online access to their health records and show that at least 10% had accessed the information.

CMS is soliciting comments on the proposed rules. Several of our McGuireWoods colleagues publish frequent updates on all EHR, IT and HIPAA updates. A link to their most recent discussion of the Stage 2 proposed rule in found here.