An electronic medical record should be more that just a digitized representation of a paper chart, it should be a real-time information resource for physicians and other practitioners at the point of care, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
The Chicago-based healthcare information technology organization this week issued the first consensus proposal for a national definition of an EMR.
The proposed standard, written by a HIMSS workgroup that includes informaticists from academia, consulting firms and IT vendors, also calls for integration of clinical records with billing, quality management, outcomes reporting and public health surveillance systems.
"It has become kind of the starting point" for the healthcare IT community, says HIMSS President and CEO H. Steven Lieber. "If we're going to accomplish anything here, we're going to accomplish this together."
According to the proposed definition, an EMR "automates and streamlines the clinician's workflow, ensuring all clinical information is communicated and ameliorates delays in response that result in delays or gaps in care."
HIMSS submitted its proposal to Health Level Seven, a health IT standards-setting organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and to the Institute of Medicine. HL7 has been charged with the responsibility of developing a universal EMR definition by CMS and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
HL7 is convening its special-interest group on electronic health records July 23-24 in Rockville, Md., to discuss the HIMSS proposal and other ideas. According to Lieber, HL7 then will issue its own recommendations on or about Aug. 1, triggering a monthlong public comment period.
Around the second week of September, HL7 will hold a two-day meeting to vote on and refine its recommended standards. If the standards pass, they will go into effect for a four-month provisional period, after which HL7 members will take a final vote.
"Our expectation is that CMS and other payers will look at this standard for making other determinations" such as whether to use EMRs as a basis for bonus payments or quality reporting efforts, says Lieber.