The federal government, through passage of legislation in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), has provided capital incentives for qualifying providers through the federal Medicare and state Medicaid programs who implement certified electronic health records systems in the coming years. Over the next five or six years, the ARRA program will authorize literally billions of dollars in incentive payments to health care providers that can demonstrate “meaningful use” at each of the three regulatory stages as set by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS).
Interestingly, while we are reasonably sure of some of the health care delivery problems today (such as medication errors, duplicate lab tests that are ordered by different providers, lack of coordinated care between various providers), there is less data on what impact EHR technology has on these problems. This is in part because of the still relatively low adoption rates of EHRs throughout the U.S. However, as reported here, a literature review of 154 articles published on health IT adoption indicated that most of the time, improvements have been attained by practices adopting an EHR. These improvements include increased “access to care, patient satisfaction, efficiency, and effectiveness of care.”
The longer term effects of EHR technology are still to be seen on patient care, particularly as overall adoption rates increase among health care providers.