Federal Changes Could Require Electronic Records for Home Health Agencies

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It appears the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may once again be using payment rules to spur the adoption of electronic health records, this time in the realm of home health.

“[E]ffective adoption and use of health information exchange and health IT tools will be essential as these settings seek to improve quality and lower costs through initiatives such as value-based purchasing,” a new proposed rule reads.

It appears the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may once again be using payment rules to spur the adoption of electronic health records, this time in the realm of home health.
It appears the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may once again be using payment rules to spur the adoption of electronic health records, this time in the realm of home health.

Experts say the inclusion of a value-based purchasing model is an indication that EHRs may soon be required. The phrasing suggests a more imminent change than for renal disease facilities, for example, which under a proposed rule released last month are simply “encouraged” to make the switch to electronic record-keeping.

Also this month, CMS addressed health IT as it relates to nursing homes and long-term care facilities reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid. Although that proposed rule would not require such facilities to adopt EHRs, it would require facilities to conduct yearly assessments of their IT systems and electronic data-sharing capabilities (as well as putting in place other conditions, such as that if facilities have electronic records, they be made available to patients).

CMS’ Focus on Health IT
These are all new facets of CMS’ clearly stated goal of moving all health operations in the U.S. toward EHRs.

Previous efforts, mostly focused on requiring hospitals and physicians reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid to shift to electronic records, have been highly successful when it comes to adoption rate. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, for example, adoption of basic EHR systems among office-based physicians went up a full 21%.

However, there has been serious dissent over the implementation of these systems, as well as CMS’ role in essentially enforcing adoption. While federal health agencies are now working to encourage interoperability, the wide variety of systems and their incompatibility with one another have kept some of the potential of EHRs from being realized.

Regardless, there can be little doubt that EHRs, in one form or another, are the future of medical record-keeping.

CMS is accepting comments on the proposed home health rule, which is available in full online, through September 2015.

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