Long-term care providers should follow hospitals in adopting EHRs, government says

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Healthcare providers have already exceeded the government's 2013 adoption goals for electronic health records, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

“We have reached a tipping point in adoption of electronic health records,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “More than half of eligible professionals and 80% of eligible hospitals have adopted these systems. Health IT helps providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients' health and save money at the same time.”

Sebelius was referring to providers that are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for adopting EHRs. Skilled nursing facilities are excluded from the Medicare incentives, but SNFs in some states have been eligible for funding through the HITECH Act's Medicaid Nursing Home Grant program. Sebelius' comments support expert assessments that long-term care should use technology to facilitate coordinated care with physicians and hospitals.

Long-term care providers have not yet adopted health IT and EHRs on a “broad scale,” according to a March report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The report included several suggestions for increasing adoption in long-term care settings, such as starting with programs to automate manual administrative processes.

Click here to access Wednesday's HHS announcement.

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