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In 2004, President George W. Bush explained his vision for electronic health records in the United States by 2014. The electronic health record goal was to prevent medical errors, mistakes and deaths due to physicians making uninformed decisions. In 2009 President Barack Obama, included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the stimulus bill. The HITECH Act stipulated the adoption of electronic health records and the exchange of data between medical entities. But it also provided incentive money to physicians and hospitals that adopt electronic health records and use them in a meaningful way.

What’s Meaningful Use?

Hospital bar code enabled medication administration systems can verify that the right drug was Hospital bar code enabled medication administration systems demonstrate the meaningful use concept. Those systems can verify that the right drug was given to the right patient in the right dose at the right time. But the government and the HITECH Act goes further. $19.2 billion has been allocated for incentives for electronic health record adoption. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has specific criteria that medical providers (both physicians and hospitals) must meet in order to qualify for the annual EHR incentive money. Several of the incentive measures have to do with drugs:

drug-to-drug allergy checks

active medication list

active medication allergy list

e-prescribing (electronic prescriptions).

According to the coroner, Michael died from “acute propofol intoxication.” In other words, an overdose of the medication. Who knows if an electronic health record system would have prevented Michael Jackson’s death. But EHRs have the potential to increase patient safety and improve the quality of healthcare in the United States.

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