With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act this year, the expansion of community health centers and other federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) has become commonplace across the U.S. These reform efforts have allowed many low-income citizens to attain the primary care they need to improve overall health, and electronic health record usage has already proven beneficial for many providers thus far.
EHRs and community health centers
EHR software use in community centers is still in the beginning stages in some respects. Yet it seems that over the past few years especially, these trends are starting to change. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics showed that community health centers found system interface issues with EHRs were problematic, but other clinical tasks like lab ordering saw improvement. In the early days of EHR implementation with these providers, issues with compliance and other regulatory requirements presented key problems, according to the study.
"In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund released a survey indicated that health IT service usage overall in FQHCs had increased by a stunning 133 percent between 2009 and 2013."
The cost of implementing a medical software system can also be somewhat expensive for FQHCs, which are usually working on tight budgets as it is. However, according to a Health Resources and Services Administration press release from December 2012, the ACA granted $18 million in community health funds that were strictly allocated toward health IT improvements. An HRSA administrator further explained in the press release that the investments result in IT technology improvements across 600 health centers throughout the U.S.
In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund released a survey indicating that health IT service usage overall in FQHCs had increased by a stunning 133 percent between 2009 and 2013, showing that EHR implementation trends have changed dramatically in just a few years. Nearly all of the respondents who were surveyed (93 percent) indicated that they now have an EHR system in place.
How FQHCs can fund EHR software
It's clear that meaningful use incentives – which were first implemented in 2009 – have allowed many FQHCs to use this important technology in poor and underserved communities. According to HRSA, both Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs require the use of certified EHR technology in order to receive payments. Medical software must be tested and certified by an Office of the National Coordinator Authorized Testing and Certification Body to ensure that payments are processed.
It's important for intelligent medical software to reach people from all walks of life so that everyone can have the best tools in preventative and primary care.