The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) contains provisions to make Electronic Health Records (EHRs) the industry standard in maintaining patients' protected medical information in electronic format rather than on paper, which has been the standard until now. While the law contains provisions to exclude smaller medical practices from adopting its EHR provisions in the near future, all health care providers in every specialty should be aware of the implications of EHR standardization as it progresses.
An EHR consultant is a professional who can advise on the mandates established by the PPACA as they are enacted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency charged with overseeing implementing the act's provisions. CMS is working in tandem with private health insurers, who are obligated to adopt applicable standards, as well as with individual state Medicaid agencies. The health care industry is undergoing major changes in how it maintains protected health information (PHI), and it is incumbent on providers in every health care setting to comply with these changes.
An EHR consultant understands the IT limitations of available software systems on the market, and can advise which products will best meet a health care facility's needs. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) already established safeguards and restriction on how PHI can be used. PPACA builds off HIPAA, extending patient rights and safeguards into the digital realm. New guidance and regulations are issued by CMS on a regular basis. A professional EHR consultant keeps abreast of this fluctuating regulatory atmosphere in order to offer the most current guidance on using digital PHI meaningfully and effectively, while adhering to applicable statutes and contractual obligations.
CMS has established standards of meaningful use to ensure that EHRs are developed and used according to the intent of the law. EHR management is meant to ease the transparent access of PHI through electronic media to improve patient care. This includes sharing PHI between healthcare providers to improve patient outcomes, such as electronic prescribing, as well as the format and storage requirements of digital media. An EHR consultant can recommend appropriate management protocols to control access, to encrypt data, and to provide mandated protection of patients' rights to privacy.
While medical coding and billing are a component of EHR utilization, and these operations directly the financial operations of a health care facility, CMS offers other financial incentives for providers who implement meaningful EHR technology. When providers report their progress in implementing EHRs in their practice, they are eligible for extra reimbursement depending on their performance. A professional EHR consultant will help ensure that reports are accurate and that the information provided conforms to the definitions required by CMS.