Electronic Health Record Standards

The federal government takes steps to ensure that these electronic systems are strong, secure, and able to communicate with each other.

Over the next six years, doctors, hospitals, and other clinicians who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid can earn extra payments from the government if they adopt and make “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs). But to be eligible, the electronic record systems adopted must conform to and be certified as meeting strict technical software standards.

Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued its first set of these standards, which are designed to ensure that the systems are secure and reliable, as part of a series of efforts to get doctors and hospitals across the country to adopt EHRs by 2014.

Even with the regulations in place and the incentive payments pending, the technological platform to facilitate the sharing of electronic medical records is still being built. In 2010, HHS has so far awarded $548 million to states and territories to develop state health information exchanges that will link health care providers within their boundaries.

This Health Policy Brief examines the issues surrounding the transition to electronic health records, and the regulatory framework, and was published online on September 28, 2010 in Health Affairs.

Read more from RWJF's Health Policy Snapshot series.