By Simon Wieczner
According to the acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—Andy Slavitt—Meaningful Use (MU) will soon cease to exist as it used be. For many healthcare organizations, this was welcomed news. While everyone seems to agree that electronic health record (EHR) adoption is important, many disliked the way Meaningful Use required organizations to follow an exact set of criteria in order to avoid penalties. Now in the wake of this news, both media and healthcare organizations are wondering what will happen next and if they should still prepare to make the changes required in Stage 3 of MU.
By releasing some of the pressure on the MU directives that have upset and frustrated many providers, the CMS is recognizing that it’s not about technology as much as it is patient outcomes. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning technology altogether, but rather embracing the flexibly in order to achieve what we all want: improved patient outcomes.
This means we still must use all means at our disposal for communicating with patients both electronically, as well as face to face. The best way to ensure this still includes enhancing the ability for care givers to easily record patient information and subsequently accurately record and relay that data. By allowing care givers to do this in a variety of ways as opposed to a narrow directive, they will be able to discover the alternative solutions that work best for the unique situation.
It might not be exactly how CMS envisioned it, but given the flexibility to adopt EHRs in a way that makes sense for each organization, it’s not hard to envision them still arriving at the same end game, including:
- Improved patient portals that will be easier to use and contain more information
- Better health record links between different providers
- Greater security through improved authorization methods
- Communication that will not only include patient portals, but text messaging, emails, phone calls, and ordinary mail
- Centralized patient records that are more secure and readily available to all the providers a patient might see
One tangible way to achieve better patient portals and the desired outcomes listed above is to add in powerful and sophisticated document viewing capability to the portals. Built-in HTML5 viewing capabilities allows users to documents such as physician notes, lab results, diagnostic images, and emails from any device, including tablets and smartphones.
These web-based portals with sophisticated document viewing tools also allow the approved providers to review patient records quickly and properly act in emergency situations. These portals with document viewing systems open up the communication channels within healthcare organizations so data can flow seamlessly between different departments and different legacy systems. This interoperability ensures no patient data is ever lost and siloed, all while the document viewing solution brings new benefits to the table for the organization.
Ultimately, healthcare organizations need to be able to adopt EHRs in a manner that best suits them and their workflow and operations. Flexible document viewers that can easily integrate into existing patient portals are just one solution that will result in better outcomes for patients and providers, alike. That’s something everyone can agree on.
Simon Wieczner is the president and CEO of Snowbound Software.