Electronic prescription: meaningful use not meaningful enough?

Apparently, our current meaningful use standards for electronic prescription are too low to make a difference.

According to an article published in Health Affairs, the current targets set for meaningful use of electronic prescription are "probably too low to have a significant impact on deaths from heart failure and heart attack among hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries."

If you're interested in the specifics and would like to learn more, read the abstract of the article, or the full article.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, meaningful use refers to the standards set by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for measurability of implementation of electronic health record technology.

According to the article in Health Affairs, basically, meaningful use doesn't become meaningful until it's twice as meaningful as it means to be in the near future, at least where heart patients are concerned. Conversely, electronic medication order entry didn't really mean much to pneumonia mortality rates.

If I had to hazard a guess why, I'd say that it's because heart patients are often on such a number of medications, with such interaction potential and such need for regular assessment, that the removal of complications associated with paper prescription (along with the addition of the cross-checking for errors that computer prescription makes possible) lowers the possibility of mistakes and increases the odds for successful outcomes.

Hopefully, this data will be taken into consideration when choosing the criteria for the next stage of meaningful use.

Image courtesy of Flickr user RambergMediaImages

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