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Study Promotes EHR Use, Physicians Remain Wary

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  • November 16, 2009
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A recent RAND Corporation study provides another incentive for physicians to implement electronic health care records (EHRs) — in addition to that really good one that mandates EHR meaningful use by 2014. According to the study, dedicated EHR use improves quality of care for patients and facilitates quality reporting for physicians. This, in turn, ensures eligible professionals (EPs) receive the full Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) incentive. An Ingenix survey, however, says many physicians remain skeptical that the benefits would outweigh the cost of implementing an EHR system.

RAND Study Results

The RAND study, published in the Oct. 6 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, linked EHR use to higher quality care when the systems included advanced functions such as electronic reminders to physicians, and if the systems were used routinely by a medical practice.

Studying 305 groups of primary care physicians in Massachusetts, researchers found that practices that used multifunctional EHRs were more likely to deliver better care for diabetes and provide certain health screenings than those that did not.

Primary care medical practices that used multifunctional EHRs performed better on five of the quality measures — two involving diabetes care and screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and chlamydia.

Medical practice groups that had frequent meetings to discuss quality reported better results for three measures of diabetes care. Practices that reported high physician awareness of patient experience ratings reported higher performance on screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Quality Reporting in 2010

Under the 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) final rule with comment period, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said it will begin accepting data from qualified EHR products on 10 individual PQRI measures. CMS also will, for the first time, allow EPs to count their submission of EHR-based measures toward their eligibility for a PQRI incentive payment. Specifically, the final rule provides that EPs who satisfactorily report data on at least three of the 10 EHR-based individual PQRI measures are eligible for an incentive payment.

Ingenix Survey Results

The Ingenix survey, however, found that physicians remain concerned about the cost of implementing an EHR system. The online survey of 1,001 U.S. physicians and physician practice administrators found that more than half (58 percent) of respondents have little or no familiarity with the ARRA, while 42 percent have some familiarity with its provisions. Their concern about money prompts 82 percent to say they would purchase EHR technologies if they were reimbursed, and 77 percent fear the penalties for not implementing the technology enough they would be incented to do so.

The ARRA promotes widespread EHR adoption by providing $19 billion in special Medicare reimbursement payments — up to $44,000 per physician over a five year period — to practices that demonstrate meaningful use of the technology.

Sources: RAND Oct. 5 news release; Ingenix Nov. 4 news release.

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