Health care facilities scrambling to meet Meaningful Use, EMRAM requirements

A number of organizations have been implementing paperless initiatives as a way to streamline operations and save money. By eliminating the need to store important information in a hard copy format, organizations can add more revenue to the bottom line by eliminating the need to purchase paper, expensive copy machines and requisite accessories like ink and toner cartridges.

Converting documents into a digital format contributes to better security by making it easier to keep important information out of the wrong hands. In addition, this process makes it easier to share information and eliminates the risk of files being incomplete due to missing pages, something that is extremely common when paper documents are used.

As companies begin going paperless on a more voluntary basis, the health care sector has essentially made it a mandate.

EMRAM model being implemented in health care
Walk into any clinic office or hospital records facility and the first thing you will notice is paper files stuffed into shelves containing sensitive patient information. This method of record-keeping was universal in the sector and was essentially standard operating procedure.

However, as technology began to advance and document scanning became widely adopted, the health care sector found it much easier to deal with patient files in a digital format as opposed to paper. Thus, the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Method, also known as EMRAM, was born.

According to Healthcare IT News, EMRAM was implemented to guide health care organizations in the process of converting patient records stored on paper, over to digital. This eight-step plan not only helps keep track of the progress being made in this area, but also allows an organization to gauge its progress against that of others around the country.

The HIMSS Analytics website wrote that medical providers have until 2015 top show that meaningful use of EMR tools has been implemented or face governmental penalties.

The definition of Meaningful Use
According to Nuance, a company that manufactures speech software, 80 percent of all patient records that are stored in a paper format must be converted into EHR: electronic health records. However, when it comes to stage 7 Meaningful Use compliance, only 3 percent of hospital facilities had 3.2 had reached this level as of Q2 of this year, according to HIMSS Analytics.

However, according to TeraMedica, although this number may seem small it is significant considering that at the beginning of the year, 5.6 percent of hospitals were at stage 0, meaning they were still completely reliant on paper. As many as 27.5 percent of facilities were at least at level 5 of the EMRAM policy in Q2, but because of the tedious nature of the document conversion process, many facilities have begun requesting hardship waivers.

According to an EHR Intelligence report, citing information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, both health care clinics and hospitals have until November 30 to submit an application for a hardship exception related to Meaningful Use policies and procedures.

"Medicare physicians who were unable to fully implement their new certified electronic health record software due to delays in receiving it and who were unable to successfully attest by the October 1 deadline can apply for the exception through November 30," Robert Wah, AMA president said in a press release.

However, Wah insisted that the AMA will continue to be proactive when it comes to enforcing the need for all patient files to be converted to digital.

"The AMA remains committed, however, to ensuring that the Meaningful Use program requirements are in fact meaningful and deliver the intended improvements in patient care and practice efficiencies."