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Meaningful Use: New Requirements for Asking about Race, Language, Smoking Habits During Patient Registration

In Brief

  • There are new requirements for asking about race, language and smoking habits during patient registration. These questions are being asked because of new federal guidelines
  • Meaningful Use is defined by the federal government as being essential to creating an electronic medical record.
  • Benefits of electronic health records make it possible for you and your physician to manage your care through secure use and sharing of health information.

If you have registered for a test or procedure at a healthcare facility recently, you may have noticed that you are now asked to indicate your race, primary language and smoking habits. These questions are being asked because of new federal guidelines enacted into law under the American Recovery and Re-investment (ARRA) HiTech Act that establishes incentive payments for providers if they implement Electronic Health Records (EHR’s).  

These guidelines define Meaningful Use as a requirement for healthcare providers to gather standard information and review treatment provided to patients in order to provide the highest quality care possible. The goal is to have the nation’s healthcare systems consistently use electronic health records to improve health and delivery in this country.  

The benefits of EHRs over paper records are significant and make it possible for you and your physician to manage your care through secure use and sharing of electronic health information. With electronic health records, doctors can have the most accurate and complete information about your health and healthcare available at all times from anywhere, compared to paper, which is only available in one place. In addition, EHRs allow your physician to coordinate you and your family’s care, as health information is shared electronically and in a fast and convenient way.  

“By sharing electronic information, such as demographics and history, with your physicians, it can help them diagnose your health problems, reduce medical errors, and provide safer care at lower costs,” says Richard Madison, vice president of Revenue Cycle Services. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality of care to everyone and lower the cost of healthcare where possible.”  

All Crozer-Keystone hospitals and Crozer-Keystone Health Network (CKHN) primary care physicians, as well as many specialty CKHN physicians and independent CKHS physicians, are already using EHRs. EHRs allow access to a patient’s medical records electronically, send test results quickly to other physicians who also see the same patient and send medication prescriptions electronically to the patient’s pharmacy.  

“We have implemented EHRs and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) at Crozer-Keystone for well over five years, and we are in a good position to meet the Meaningful Use requirements,” says Don Reed, vice president of Information Services. “The HiTech Act and Meaningful Use standardized the electronic information we were gathering in order to better share that information among providers.” 

“Our goals are to follow the government requirements, while at the same time continue to provide privacy to every patient,” says Susan Majka, corporate director of Patient Access. “In addition, electronic health records allow you to experience care that is more convenient. You won’t have to spend time filling out or answering the same questions about your health every time you visit the doctor or hospital and you will be notified when you or your child need preventive care such as vaccinations.”  

However, privacy is still a vital part of electric health records. Patient health information continues to be protected under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Patients have a right to see their medical records and get a copy from their physician’s office. Electronic medical records also include an audit trail of who has viewed them, making security even tighter than having a paper record.  

The government is continuing to develop rules about the privacy and security of personal health information and Crozer-Keystone will continue to follow federal guidelines to make healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone.


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