Late last week, HIMSS Analytics, a subsidiary of the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), recognized 15 hospitals within two health systems with its first Stage 7 Award. Stage 7 is the highest possible level on HIMSS’ Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Adoption Model, and represents an advanced patient-record environment.  Stage 7 hospitals can deliver patient care without the use of paper charts, can share standardized patient information securely with other providers, can use medical information to drive measurable patient care improvements, and are “best practice examples” to other hospitals looking to implement EMRs.

President Obama has allotted $17.2 billion in incentives via the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act beginning in October 2011 to Medicare and Medicaid providers who can prove they’re using healthcare information technology (HIT) “in a meaningful way.”  No matter what your views on his policies, it’s clear President Obama understands the role HIT can and should play in delivering quality healthcare at reduced cost.  It’s also evident that while “Stage 7” HIT adoption won’t happen overnight, he’ll be looking to the industry to begin moving in that direction from now on.

How can the industry start on the path to “Stage 7” in HIT?  Start investing now, and tell Health & Human Services in Washington you want a say in what constitutes a “meaningful” HIT investment, and standards for HIT implementation when incentives arrive in 2011.  It stands to reason the focus on HIT only works best when the playing field is level.

— Brian Barthelmes

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