Get nurses more involved in EHRs for meaningful use

The road to achieving Stage 2 meaningful use can be a long one, and hospitals should employ all of their resources to do so. According to an article in EHR Intelligence, many healthcare executives were overconfident that the start date of 2014 for Stage 2 would be delayed, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid isn’t pushing the date back. Planning ahead is what’s going to give hospitals a leg up on meetings all the requirements of electronic health record incentive programs’ phases. A 2012 study of nurses’ use of EHRs noted better patient outcomes than those nurses who didn’t use the technology. For hospitals to truly achieve Stage 2 meaningful use in time, they have to utilize their nursing staff and ensure they have enough nurses on duty through hospital scheduling software.

EHRs among nurses
Using EHRs can be time consuming for physicians, and while nurses tend to have large workloads as well, employing their technology expertise and skills as well as their strong relationships with patients is important for EHR meaningful use. According to iHealthBeat, a 2012 study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing found EHR use among nurses is the key to improving patient outcomes overall. Happier patients are more likely to utilize patient portals. With patient engagement and access to EHR information being key focuses of Stage 2, achieving these goals are important.

In fact, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the 2012 Penn study noted nursing documentation reduces a hospital’s number of medical errors, which have a considerable impact on readmission rates. Hospitals can even see financial consequences associated with failing to improve nurses’ use of EHR systems.

Many hospital executives may disagree with the assertion that nurse use of EHR systems can help the health system achieve Stage 2 meaningful use. However, Randy Hountz, principal advisor of operations for Purdue Healthcare Advisors, told EHR Intelligence it’s going to be the little things that are going to make the difference for hospitals.

“[People] have spent considerable high-level thinking, but with meaningful use it’s not the objective at a high level that will get you, it’s the nuances – how do you count things, do these count or not count,” Hountz said. “That is where the difficulty in it lies and we’re on that same path we were in Stage 1 where there are a lot of saying, ‘We got Stage 2. We know all about it. We pretty much have it under control.'”

Overconfidence about the hospital’s current level of meaningful use can lead to issues. According to Health Fusion, drug interventions, recording patients’ vitals and smoking statuses and documenting office visitations in summaries are all essential factors of Stage 2. Giving nurses more training and access in the EHR system can ensure the hospital takes every opportunity to meet these goals.

EHRs are here to stay, and with the nursing workforce playing such an important part in the patient experience and overall patient care, hospitals need to get on board with advancing nurses’ roles in the medical community.

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