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The use of technology in medicine has the potential to improve the efficiency and quality of the health care delivery system. As health information technology (HIT) is increasingly adopted, however, many California physicians must navigate a sometimes confusing world of technical jargon, conflicting information about vendors, and federal and state regulations.
The California Medical Association (CMA) has valuable resources to help physicians successfully adopt and implement health information technology in their practices. In this section, you will find information on top HIT issues of interest to physicians with helpful summaries and analyses of laws and regulations, guidelines, and links to resources on electronic health records (EHRs), the federal EHR incentive programs, mobile health applications, privacy and security issues including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other HIT topics.
Below is a brief summary of the top HIT issues, with links to additional resources.
An electronic health record is a database used for storing clinical information about the care and treatment of your patients. EHR systems often connect patient records to billing systems, practice management systems, scheduling software and clinical decision support tools. They also allow for the secure exchange of information between different treatment locations. If implemented properly, EHR systems can increase practice efficiency, reduce errors, and improve quality and coordination of patient care.
In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act established a federally-funded incentive program to encourage physicians to adopt and implement EHR systems. Physicians who achieve "meaningful use" of certified EHR systems are eligible for up to $63,750 in incentive payments.
For more information on EHRs, the federal EHR incentive program and achieving meaningful use, click here.
Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) is a paperless way of prescribing medication that involves electronically transmitting a prescription to a pharmacy. E-prescribing can improve the quality of patient care by preventing medication errors due to difficulties reading handwritten prescriptions, while reducing adverse drug events by making drug interaction and contraindication information easily available to the prescriber. In 2008, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act established the Medicare e-Prescribing Incentive Program for eligible prescribers who successfully fulfill e-prescribing goals. Physicians who are not successful e-prescribers face a penalty in the form of a payment adjustment on their Medicare Part B services.
For more information, see below:
- CMA On-Call document #3207, "Electronic Prescribing"
- Medicare Electronic Prescribing Overview: Payment Incentives and Payment Reductions
Mobile health (mHealth) is a term used to signal the practice of medicine supported by mobile devices. The use of laptops, smartphones, tablets and other mobile technology in health care allows physicians to access patient records and resources, look up clinical data, transmit prescriptions and receive real-time updates on a patient's condition from anywhere, at any time. However, physicians must consider important privacy and security concerns with their use. To learn more about mHealth, and its impact on the physician community, click here.
California physicians must comply with state and federal privacy and security laws to protect patient information. To help our members navigate the complex privacy and security laws and regulations, CMA provides up-to-date resources on HIPAA and California laws including the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA). For more information on HIPAA, CMIA and other privacy and security information, click here.
The International Classification of Diseases, tenth revision (ICD-10), is a system of coding created in 1992 as the successor to the previous ICD-9 system. ICD-10 will include new procedures and diagnoses, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hopes will improve the quality of information available for quality improvement and payment purposes.
The differences between ICD-9 and ICD-10 are significant. Physicians and practice management staff need to start educating themselves now about this major change so that they will be able to meet the October 1, 2014, compliance deadline. The transition to ICD-10 is required for everyone covered by HIPAA. Please note, the change to ICD-10 does not affect CPT coding for outpatient procedures and physician services.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently launched an online ICD-10 implementation guide to help practices of all sizes successfully make the switch to the new ICD-10 coding system, which is used to report medical diagnoses and inpatient procedures. Physicians and payors must begin using the new code sets by October 1, 2014
To assist physicians in preparing for the transition to ICD-10, CMA has partnered with AAPC to provide CMA members with a complete suite of ICD-10 educational courses at steeply discounted rates. For more information, click here.
Other HIT Resources
- AMA's Practice Management Center
- Certification Commission for Health Information Technology
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health IT website
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI)
- California Telehealth Network (CTN)
- Healthcare IT News