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May 23 2011   9:16AM GMT

EHR adoption: No “good” argument for sticking to paper

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
EHR, EHR Adoption

 Guest post by: Patti Dodgen, CEO, Hielix

Although there are many skeptics of the electronic health record (EHR) adoption process, there is truly no “good” argument for sticking to paper records.

From working with thousands of physicians, the most common concerns of are reduction in workflow during the transition, lack of understanding of the technical aspects and upfront cost. Reduction in workflow can be minimized by a phased approach, and quickly compensated for once the EHR system is in place — by increasing workflow efficiency thereafter. The lack of technical understanding is easily fixed by consulting the right people and taking an adequate amount of time to understand the unique needs of the practice. This will be covered in depth in the second article of this series. For now, upfront costs are reimbursed through federal incentive money. Under the Medicare incentive, practices can receive $18,000 per physician in their first year for meeting the initial meaningful use requirements, and these checks are currently being distributed.  By the completion of meeting the Meaningful Use requirements, a grand total of $44,000 per physician is distributed through Medicare, or $64,000 through Medicaid.

More important than the limited government funding is the sustainable savings that will continue to reward practices. Health IT solutions are more efficient, more cost-effective and financially sustainable. Improvements to the quality of care are endless. Each time a patient visits, their records will automatically be updated and easily accessible, helping physicians to make a more accurate and efficient diagnosis. Improvements to patient safety can be made by reducing the amount of prescription errors, and time and money can be saved through reductions in undercoding and more accurate billing and administration.

Ultimately, the demand for EHRs will come from the consumer. Patients will begin to hear of practices that are more efficient and up-to-date, and will feel confident in visiting a practice with the most advanced technology. Even physicians who are thinking of retiring soon and selling their practices should be weary of avoiding the transition. The selling price of the business will greatly depend on its ability to compete and maintain clients, both now and in the future, and the value of a paper-based practice will continue to go down as more practices implement EHR systems.

Now that we know EHRs are the future of health care, how do you know which product to choose for your practice? Assessment, selection and planning will be covered next.

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