ACS offers resources to help surgeons achieve meaningful use of EHR

In an ongoing effort to help the surgical community achieve meaningful use through participation in the federal Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program and to better understand program requirements, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has numerous EHR resources available on the home page of its website and is engaged in a number of other related activities.

Members of the ACS and other health care providers and professionals have expressed a number of concerns regarding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) EHR Incentive Program, which offers financial rewards to health care professionals and hospitals that “meaningfully use” EHR technology. The incentive program was established through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology (HIT).

Some of the specific concerns surgeons have raised center on the following: choosing the right EHR vendor, implementing EHR in the workplace, understanding meaningful use requirements, and qualifying for incentive payments under the EHR Incentive Program.

ACS’ EHR resources

Currently, the College has identified two paths to provide surgeons with the most up-to-date and pertinent information on EHRs: (1) an online EHR Resource Page on the College’s website; and (2) access to a members-only Web-based resource for EHR system selection/implementation.

To start, access the “Online EHR Resources for Surgeons” at www.facs.org. This resource offers free online EHR comparison resources. Read through the “Basic Starter Guide,” located along the left-hand column, to gain an introduction of some of the key issues related to meaningful use of a certified EHR.

In addition, a “resources page” provides tips on negotiating an EHR vendor contract, gives details on the rule-making process, and provides a listing of the Regional Extension Centers (RECs). RECs offer technical assistance and guidance to providers in the U.S. to help them become meaningful users. Or you can bookmark the dedicated EHR resource Web page for immediate access by using this URL: http://www.facs.org/SurgeonsEHR/index.html.

In addition, the College is in the process of developing a series of webinars that will highlight key components of EHR, including incentive criteria, quality measures, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and EHR benefits and barrier. The College is working to ensure that participants have access to and fully understand the documentation necessary to make optimal decisions about engaging in health information processes designed to enhance the care and service to patients.

ACS partners with EHR firm

The ACS also is one of more than a dozen professional society partners of AmericanEHR Partners, a Web-based resource for EHR system selection/implementation developed by the American College of Physicians and Cientis Technologies. Free EHR information may be accessed via its website at www.americanEHR.com. The site provides the tools necessary to identify, implement, and effectively use EHRs and other health care technologies. For example, surgeons may use the site to compare certified EHR systems and find the system that best suits their specific needs, or use the EHR Readiness Assessment Tool designed to assess a number of critical areas and gauge the effort and commitment required to make EHR adoption easier and more successful. Surgeons may also find useful the biweekly EHR educational newsletter, podcasts, and active blogs that discuss the HIT industry and more.

AmericanEHR Partners does not endorse or indicate a preference for any EHR system. The goal is to provide unbiased information on all participating EHR vendors.

ACS EHR advocacy activities

The College is also working with other organizations to advocate on health care professionals’ and other providers’ behalf. This spring, the College’s Division of Advocacy and Health Policy (DAHP) and the National Coalition of HealthCare Providers (NCHP) convened two meetings with other groups to discuss meaningful use requirements, workforce issues, and HIT vendor selection. The College and other health care groups are gathering information pertaining to their members’ HIT-related concerns and working together to relay these issues to members of Congress and officials at federal agencies, such as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS. In addition, the College recently participated in a meeting titled the EHR Surgical Quality Data Capture: Evolving a Learning Healthcare System, with key researchers, clinicians, and EHR vendors. Future meetings are being planned.

Furthermore, the College is urging CMS to reevaluate the penalty timelines associated with the EHR incentive program. With the recent release of the CMS meaningful use Stage 2 proposed rule, DAHP staff has been actively involved in writing a comment letter to CMS urging the agency to make the new meaningful use requirements more flexible and applicable to specialists. The College’s DAHP will continue to advocate for these and other issues to help strengthen surgeons’ overall ability to provide quality care to patients.

 Additional EHR resources

CMS’ EHR Information Center Helpline: 888-734-6433
CMS’ EHR incentive program
ONC’s site on attaining meaningful use

Direct questions regarding the EHR Incentive Program to Sana Gokak at sgokak@facs.org. For questions about the College’s HIT advocacy-related work on Capitol Hill and with relevant federal agencies, contact Dana Halvorson at dhalvorson@facs.org.

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