Using your EHR to keep on top of medical compliance changes

Ensure you stay ahead of the pack on medical compliance changes with these EHR tips, including data privacy and interoperability. A free guide from the experts at EHR In Practice

The regulatory landscape surrounding EHRs, as the healthcare community can certainly attest to, is constantly evolving. The evolution of EHR regulations is the product of the incremental manner in which such regulations as Meaningful Use program and other EHR-related regulations are being implemented.

Further, EHR regulations have also been modified from their original form to meet “on the ground” challenges expressed in concerns raised by the administrative rulemaking process. One can point to the differences in the Meaningful Use Stage 3 requirements initially proposed compared to the final rule that was put in place after the public comments process was completed. Given the fluid nature of EHR regulations, how can practices make sure their EHR software stays compliant with these constantly evolving regulations?

1. Make certain your EHR is interoperable (or at least able to become interoperable)

Interoperability factors heavily in the current and future phases of the Meaningful Use program. The ability to share data and coordinate care across settings factors heavily in regulators vision of a more cost effective and modern health care system. Although interoperability is inhibited by barriers that are beyond a consumer’s control, such as the lack of incentives to make systems interoperable and resistance by vendors, selecting an EHR that possesses the greatest potential interoperability can pave the way toward staying on top of the current and future trends in EHR regulations.  

Recommended reading: find EHR software to suit your practice with our extensive EHR vendor directory, updated monthly.

2. Employ EHR-based patient engagement

Providers who are participating in the EHR Incentive Programs will increasingly be required to engage with their patients through their EHR. Currently, and even more so in the near future, patient engagement through patient portals and the transmission of clinical information to third parties to assist with care coordination will be crucial for compliance with incentive programs. Further, patient engagement not only provides an avenue for regulatory compliance - it also serves as means to increase patient satisfaction and quality of care.

3. Keep data privacy at the forefront 

Data security should always factor largely in a provider’s technology strategy. As regulations require providers to share information more frequently through their EHRs and as practices integrate mobile devices into their practice, data security will become an even greater consideration in the future.

An EHR will, of course, have the necessary tools for HIPAA and HiTECH compliance. However, as a practice’s use and sharing of clinical records changes over time the EHR’s ability to keep data private given new and emerging threats and a practice’s internal policies should remain faithful to the goal of data security. If one needs further proof of aligning technological security with internal security practices OCR has indicated it will be bolstering its compliance audit program. When coupled with the massive costs associated with a data breach an EHR paired with comprehensive internal privacy policies is imperative.

Although the regulatory landscape for EHRs will always evolve, one should not assume that a practice is at the mercy of change, rather a practice’s EHR strategy can remove a great deal of this burden as regulations change.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green