Using EHRs Improves Efficiency, Quality Care, and Competitiveness
 Back in July 2010, the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), instituted the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program, which grants incentive payments to health-care providers for satisfying “the meaningful use of certified EHR technology.” Payments began in May of this year: Eligible hospitals receive an initial payment of $2 million, with additional payments based on a discharge formula. Eligible professionals (e.g., physicians, medical directors) receive a maximum grant of $44,000. Medicare-eligible hospitals and professionals that do not successfully demonstrate “meaningful use” by 2015 will be penalized by having their reimbursements adjusted.
 Unfortunately, long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) providers—skilled nursing, assisted living, home health, independent rehab, hospice, PACE, behavioral, adult day care—are ineligible for the incentive grants. Efforts to try to expand eligibility to these types of organizations have been unsuccessful…so far. And given the laggard economy and the reining in of federal funding, that’s unlikely to change in the near term.
 The government’s ultimate goal, however, is for health-care providers to have access to a dynamic, integrated, longitudinal, person-centric EHR system by 2015. The only good thing about not being included in the incentive program is that LTPACs—unlike the hospitals and professionals—won’t be penalized in 2015 if they haven’t satisfied the “meaningful use of certified EHR technology.”
 Nevertheless, getting on the EHR bandwagon now is a smart idea for all LTPACs. Implementing an EHR system is just as relevant in a continuing care or skilled nursing setting as in any other venue, because the system will increase the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness and improve the quality of care, patient safety, and continuity of care. Once a patient is registered in the EHR system, information regarding services provided at any level resides in one place.
 “That creates enormous efficiencies and, obviously, higher quality care,” said Walter Tanenbaum, Director of the Health Information Technology Group at RSM McGladrey, Inc., in New York City. “Knowing what drugs a patient received in an acute-care hospital setting when continuing forward to a home-health environment, for example, is extremely valuable.”
 And as the health-care industry inches along toward accountable care organizations (ACOs), bundled payments, and shared savings scenarios, “Those that cannot run with the fastest, so to speak, are clearly going to be left behind,” he added.
Definitions: EMR, EHR
EMRs (electronic medical records) and EHRs (electronic health records) are often confused and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, although their meanings are actually quite different. It’s important, therefore, to understand the difference.
 An EMR is a collection of health-related information on an individual—an electronic version of the (old) paper charts in a clinician’s office. The EMR is created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one health-care organization. EMRs allow those clinicians to track data over time, easily identify when the patient is due for preventive screenings or checkups, check patient progress within certain parameters (e.g., blood pressure readings, vaccinations), help prevent patient rehospitalization, and monitor and improve overall quality of care within the practice…Want to read more? Click here for a free trial to Senior Living Business and download the current issue today