Electronic Health Records (EHR) in the Optometric Practice

Electronic health records (EHRs) are the future of health care. Far more that just an efficient way to take patient information or file insurance claims, EHRs hold potential to revolutionize health care practice. They are important clinical tools with a range of functions that can be used to:

  • Markedly improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of care;
  • Enhance care coordination;
  • Reduce health disparities among various segments of the population;
  • Engage patients and their families in care; and
  • Address critical public health issues.

Full utilization of EHRs will be essential if optometrists are to provide their patients the highest quality care. Moreover, EHRs are central to virtually every major plan for improvement of American health care. For that reason, meaningful use of EHRs will be essential if optometrists are to continue as an integral part of America’s health care system.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is establishing a national electronic health records infrastructure, the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), to make EHRs available to all Americans by 2014. The department has instituted a number of initiatives – notably the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) incentive program – to encourage the implementation of EHR systems in health care practices and the full utilization of EHRs in the enhancement of patient care.

The AOA has launched a comprehensive Electronic Health Records Preparedness Program for Optometry to help practitioners implement EHR technology in a timely manner and use it effectively to benefit patients.

The AOA Health Information Technology and Telemedicine Committee urges optometrists to be familiar with the major facts regarding the government’s planned development of a national EHR system and the incentive programs designed to encourage practitioner participation (see “Ten Things Optometrists Should Know About EHRs”). The committee also urges optometrists to be aware of major deadlines for EHR incentive programs and the development of the NHIN (see “EHR Deadlines”). Above all, the committee urges optometrists to develop a strategy for the implementation of EHR technology and the utilization of EHR systems to enhance patient care (see “Ten Things Every Optometric Practice Should Do Now to Implement EHRs”). Detailed information regarding EHR implementation and participation in incentive programs is provided in the Resources section below.

The committee also urges optometrists to assess the various EHR systems on the market and determine which may be best suited to their needs.

Information on government legislation and regulation pertinent to EHRs can be found on the AOA Advocacy Group’s Health Information Technology page (www.aoa.org/HIT.xml).

AOA members with questions regarding EHR implementation or the use of EHRs for the enhancement of patient care should contact AOA at EHR@aoa.org.