Report reveals doctors in California unprepared for medical informatics regulations

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According to a new study published by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), many physicians in California are unprepared to meet requirements set forth in federal healthcare IT regulations.

Despite widespread adoption of medical informatics technology across the state, many healthcare facilities either lack the functionality necessary to achieve meaningful use certification or are unprepared to use such systems effectively. More than 7,900 Californian physicians were polled as part of the study. Participants were asked to outline their use of healthcare IT, including whether eight of the 15 core objectives of the meaningful use program were being met.

The report indicates that while 71 percent of facilities across the state have implemented a clinical informatics system, only 30 percent have technology capable of achieving meaningful use objectives under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) federal financial incentive program.

“We found that physicians are more likely to have electronic health records with functions that support individual patient visits rather than functions that support overall quality improvement,” Janet Coffman, lead author of the report and assistant professor at the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, said in a statement.

The study also shows that while many physicians have access to medical informatics technology that can gather detailed information on their patients, few have the means to produce detailed reports on factors such as tobacco use, blood pressure and patient weight – measures required by the CMS in order for facilities to qualify for meaningful use payments.

Despite the shortcomings identified by the study, Coffman said medical informatics systems can benefit physicians in a variety of ways. She highlighted the value of automated reminders and notifications relating to potential medication conflicts as two ways that healthcare IT can help doctors provide a greater quality of care to their patients.