Technology News

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

Online Tool Available To Help Health Organizations Adopt EHRs

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently launched an online tool—the Unintended Consequences Guide—to provide practical troubleshooting knowledge and resources to help hospitals and other health care organizations anticipate, avoid, and address problems that can arise when adopting and using electronic health records (EHRs).

The free resource was created by experts from the RAND corporation, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Kaiser Permanente of Colorado, and the American Health Information Management Association Foundation. The work was supported by a contract from AHRQ.

“The goal is to provide administrators, technology officers, and other health care providers with information that will help them successfully adopt and use electronic health records,” said Spencer Jones, PhD, an information scientist at RAND and a coauthor of the guide. “Moving from paper records to electronic records is a major undertaking and the ‘Unintended Consequences Guide’ is an essential tool to help the migration.”

Implementation of EHRs continues to grow among hospitals and other health care providers in the United States, prompted in part by major federal investments in the technology. Legislation approved in 2009 eventually may provide up to $30 billion in federal aid to hospitals and physicians that invest in EHRs.

The Unintended Consequences Guide is derived from research literature, practice-oriented guides for EHR adoption, research by its authors, and interviews with leaders of organizations that have recently switched to EHRs. The online resource can be found at

McKesson Introduces Cloud-Based Supply Chain System 

Health care services and information giant McKesson Corporation has introduced an integrated, cloud-based sourcing system that is designed to completely automate the health care supply chain, reduce inefficiency, and save providers money. The company calls McKesson Strategic Supply Sourcing the first such system capable of supporting multiple materials management information systems and combining data from within and without an organization to produce a comprehensive picture of its supply chain expenditures.

McKesson’s announcement of the new system cites research from the Aberdeen Group showing that traditional tracking systems can miss up to 60% of medical-surgical supply expenditures, leading to inefficiencies such as maintaining different contracts at varying prices for the same supplies across a single organization. The company adds that the new system will allow providers to do away with duplicate contracts, consolidate purchases, and negotiate more favorable terms with suppliers.

“McKesson Strategic Supply Sourcing is part of our comprehensive approach to resource management,” said Chris Bauleke, president, Health Systems Performance Management, McKesson Provider Technologies. “Hospitals continue to face increasing financial pressures. Our new solution will provide them with the tools they need to understand and effectively manage the supply chain and realize significant and long-lasting financial improvements.”

Study Identifies Connectivity, Process Issues with E-prescribing

Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) has made significant strides, but challenges remain related to electronic renewals, mail-order connectivity, and pharmacy processing of electronic prescriptions, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

For the study, researchers conducted telephone interviews with 114 individuals involved in e-prescribing in 97 health care organizations that included physician practices, community pharmacies, and mail-order pharmacies using the SureScripts e-prescribing network.

Study participants reported overall satisfaction with e-prescribing, but noted the need for improvements in technical standards, network connectivity on the mail-order side, and system database design, said the researchers.

Of the physician respondents, 74% noted transmission of prescriptions to mail-order pharmacies as a primary concern. “Many practices were not sure which mail-order pharmacies accepted e-prescriptions and believed that, even when a mail-order company did accept them, the process was unreliable,” wrote the researchers.

Another insufficiency is that 94% of retail pharmacies nationwide are registered users of the SureScripts systems, but almost half of the participating local pharmacies and 3 national pharmacies did not send electronic renewal authorization requests. The reasons cited by pharmacies were lack of functionality or avoidance of SureScripts transaction fees. Instead they relied on phone or fax systems. Furthermore, pharmacies using electronic systems reported challenges with inconsistent data fields for physicians and pharmaceutical electronic prescription programs, requiring editing and manual data entry.

In conclusion, researchers stated, “Changes in technical standards and system design and more targeted physician and pharmacy training may be needed to address barriers to electronic renewals, mail-order pharmacy connectivity, and pharmacy processing of electronic prescriptions.” PT 

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