GAO Releases Report Addressing Post-Acute Care EHR Adoption

A report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is lacking a comprehensive plan to meet its goal of promoting electronic health records (EHR) adoption by post-acute care facilities.  The report, requested by a group of Senators including HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, Sen. John Thune, Sen. Richard Burr, Sen. Mike Enzi and Sen. Pat Roberts, is the result of interviews with 20 stakeholders “including experts on EHR in post-acute care settings.”

According to the report, five specific factors are affecting post-acute care EHR adoption and electronic information exchange:

Cost: Stakeholders stated that facilities often have limited financial resources to cover the initial cost of an EHR and noted that additional costs may be incurred for exchanging information and for EHR maintenance.

Implementation of standards: Stakeholders expressed concerns with the variability in implementation of health data standards and the difficulty of finding health information relevant to post-acute care providers when this information is exchanged. 

Workflow disruptions: Stakeholders stated that implementation of EHRs requires post-acute facilities to change their daily work activities or processes, which can be disruptive.

Technological challenges: Stakeholders stated that they face technological challenges, such as having EHRs that are not capable of electronically exchanging health information.

Staffing: Stakeholders noted that a lack of staff with expertise to manage EHRs and high staff turnover result in a constant need to train staff to use the technology.

Of the five factors influencing EHR adoption highlighted in the report, all 20 of the stakeholders interviewed cited cost as a major factor discouraging EHR adoption.  In conclusion, the report suggests HHS should reevaluate its current efforts to encourage the adoption of EHRs and develop a comprehensive plan for the adoption of EHRs and electronic information exchange in post-acute care settings.