Massachusetts requires EHRs in hospitals by 2015

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has signed into law a health care bill that will require hospitals and community health centers to use interoperable electronic health records (EHR) systems if they seek to obtain or renew licenses to operate in 2015 or afterward.

The law outlines a goal of “full implementation of electronic health records systems and the statewide interoperable electronic health records network by January 1, 2015.” It sets up a mechanism for creating a statewide health information network.

However, it stops short of requiring doctors in private practice to use health IT. Instead, it requires doctors to demonstrate competence in the use of computerized physician order entry (CPOE), e-prescribing, EHRs and other forms of health IT by the beginning of 2015, as part of their licensure requirements.

The new law also requires hospitals and community health centers to implement CPOE as a licensing requirement, beginning in 2012.

The health IT provisions are only one aspect of the new law, which aims to contain health care costs in Massachusetts while boosting quality, transparency and access to health care.

Under the law, the state will create the Massachusetts eHealth Initiative, which “shall advance the dissemination of health information technology across the commonwealth, including the deployment of electronic health records systems in all health care provider settings that are networked through a statewide health information exchange.” A council including high-ranking state officials will advise the institute and act as a board of directors.

The institute is required to develop a statewide plan for EHR implementation and update it annually. The plan’s implementation will be funded by an e-Health Institute fund that could have a variety of sources for its money, including state bonds, appropriations, federal grants or loans or private donations.

The institute’s implementation plan will include grants for providers. Also, it may contract with other organizations that will provide implementation services to providers.

The law calls for providing patients with the ability to opt into the health information network and then to opt out at any time. It also calls for encryption and other measures to keep personal health information private. In the event of security breaches in which patients’ personal information is disclosed, the patients must be notified within 10 days.

“I applaud the many important initiatives that this legislation enacts to enhance the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care in the commonwealth,” Gov. Patrick said in a statement.

State Senate President Therese Murray was the bill’s primary sponsor.

About the Author

Nancy Ferris is senior editor of Government Health IT.

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