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HITECH’s Mandatory Adoption Date for EHRs Edges Closer

by | Mar 4, 2013

In 2009, President Obama signed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act into law, as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). HITECH instituted a series of changes which required healthcare providers to begin to adopt and implement electronic health records (EHR). By 2015, the law is requiring universal adoption, meaning every health facility must possess not only working, but highly functional and interconnected EMR systems. Failure to adopt these requirements will result in significant penalties and fines by Medicare.

The end goal of HITECH, and the reason for the stringent requirements and deadlines, is to create a nationwide health information network with integrated health records. These health records will contain every piece of data from every primary care doctor, specialist, or dentist that an individual has visited in their lifetime. These records can then be accessed instantly across a variety of channels, allowing for provider-to-provider or facility-to-facility interoperability. The completion of HITECH will reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, save the industry billions each year, and improve the quality of healthcare for the average American patient.

Easier said than done, right?

As we enter 2013, this universal compliance deadline is rapidly approaching for healthcare providers. According to data from the HIMSS’ Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model, currently less than two percent of hospitals in the United States are completely paperless and fully compliant. Needless to say, between now and 2015, there is a lot of work to be done.

One of the major challenges faced by medical providers is the ability to easily locate patient information and quickly and securely share records with other authorized parties. Each medical department has its own information system that tends to be organized around function—not patients. And these systems are rarely integrated across the organization. When introducing third-party providers, sharing information securely and easily can be very difficult.

One solution to overcome this hurdle is to implement a browser-based and easy-to-use document retrieval and viewing system. Snowbound’s VirtualViewer retrieves and renders virtually all patient records directly through a web browser. This solution is based on Snowbound Software’s powerful viewing and conversion technology, providing easy and cost-effective access to patient records for providers and patients. Whether the document types are text (messages for doctor orders, prescription information, faxes for diagnostic results, etc.) or image files (x-rays and MRIs), VirtualViewer can provide immediate and easy access. And because it is a browser-based viewer that can work on virtually any computer or tablet, there are no client installations, client-side dependencies, or digital certificates necessary—greatly widening the audience that can be served.

Most importantly for integrating purposes, VirtualViewer enables easy bolt-on and add-on technology. This both extends the usability and investment of existing systems and also provides the framework for transferring to new systems as they come online. A document manipulation add-on, for instance, will work on any client with little to no installation or follow-up support, all while providing high security and the ability to interface with almost any document directory or repository. By integrating Snowbound’s VirtualViewer, healthcare providers are able to share information and work together, regardless of where the information is maintained.

With ARRA awarding financial incentives to healthcare providers to help accelerate the adoption of electronic health records, physicians, healthcare facilities and their service providers should consider investing in Snowbound’s VirtualViewer solution to ensure HITECH/HIPAA compliance standards are met.

The clock is ticking and Snowbound can help.