As the home healthcare industry continues to grow and evolve, this facet of the healthcare industry finds itself coming face-to-face with another rapidly growing segment: Healthcare IT and electronic health records.
However, while EHRs continue to make inroads into mainstream healthcare practices, the change has been slow, if steady. Home health in particular appears dubious about the benefits gained versus the cost accrued in terms of adopting an EHR system. Fortunately for EHR advocates, this position may be changing very soon.
Technology growth has been slow
The home health industry has been lukewarm to the idea of overhauling record-keeping solutions to include a comprehensive EHR system. A 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that as of 2007, only 28 percent of surveyed practices had adopted a combination of EHR and mobile technology. Fewer practices still adopted a strictly electronic system, comprising 16 percent of healthcare practices that responded to the survey. In contrast, the source noted that 54 percent of clinics adopted neither technology.
An additional study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality looked at a pilot program from a home health agency in Pennsylvania. While the study did note that EHR greatly reduced the clinicians' average time to completion when filling out paperwork, there was little other significant benefit derived from the system.
Challenges to EHR adoption cited were lack of hardware support, inadequate training and issues integrating the new EHR system into existing workflows.
Medicare may pave the way
As with many other policy-affecting issues, many professionals are looking to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to set precedents for EHR adoption. In fact, according to Fierce EMR, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are actively encouraging home health services to adopt EHR systems, especially as self-monitoring and other remote healthcare options begin to take off among the senior population.
This stance is more than a strong suggestion on the part of CMS. The agency is proposing an amendment to its payment rules that would further incentivize home health groups to jump on board the EHR bandwagon. Additionally, CMS is launching a value-based home health purchasing model that, according to the source, may apply additional pressure to agencies to adopt EHRs.