Virtually all U.S. hospitals and the vast majority of office-based physician practices are using electronic health record systems, federal data show. Many of those EHRs were recently purchased.
So why are the feds releasing an updated and longer version of a providers' guide to buying new EHR technology?
“The one we did in 2013 (PDF) was indicative of the time that we're at,” explained Elise Anthony, policy director for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, which produced the old guide and its newly released update.
Today, EHRs are being used more for different tasks than in the past, Anthony said.
“There's a need for providers to have more information about contracts. You'll see this (version) is much more detailed.”
The new guide, “EHR Contracts Untangled: Selecting Wisely, Negotiating Terms and Understanding the Fine Print,” is the newest addition to the ONC's Health IT Playbook, an online resource center for healthcare providers on how to implement and use health IT to advance care information and delivery. The guide was written by three lawyers, including Elisabeth Belmont, a past president of the American Health Lawyers Association, and Marilyn Lamer, its current president elect.
Despite providers' fairly recent health IT purchases -- most of which were catalyzed by $35.1 billion in federal EHR incentive payments -- a fair number of hospitals and physicians' offices are likely to be upgrading or even replacing their EHRs in the next few years, if history is any guide.
In the 2014 federal fiscal year, 40% of hospitals made changes to at least some part of the EHR systems they used in 2013, with 4% swapping out all of their former vendors' products, according to federal data. During calendar year 2014, 16% of physicians and other eligible professions made EHR system changes, with 8% switching vendors.