EHR Surveys Show Physician and Med Student Disparity
Two recent surveys show a great divide among established physicians and medical students where information technology is concerned. Whereas both sides of the spectrum see the value of electronic health records (EHRs), one group is resisting while the other is insisting.
Physicians Resist Change
The first survey, conducted by Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI), a malpractice writer in New York, polled 500 physicians in the Empire state regarding their EHR implementation plans. In this survey, physicians said the costs of implementing an EHR far outweigh the benefits.
Their lowest concern was “loss of patient information,” PRI said, and 58 percent of the survey takers said EHR systems should have a positive or very positive impact on the quality of care.
“The ability to pull patient records and use the data in a collaborative environment will change the way healthcare is administered, and contribute the reduction of risk,” said Gerri Donohue, Associate Director of Risk Management Education at PRI. “It’s encouraging to see that the majority of physicians understand this benefit.”
However, whereas 85 percent of the polled physicians were aware of the possible incentives they could earn for timely EHR adoption, only 35 percent were aware of the penalties they would incur for noncompliance. And when made aware of these penalties, more than 65 percent of those physicians said the penalties wouldn’t change their minds about implementing an EHR system.
Implementation costs and staff training still weighed too heavily on their minds, the survey showed.
Medical Students Insist on Technology
The fifth annual Future Physicians of America survey, sponsored by Epocrates, paints a completely different picture among the polled 700-plus medical students who use the company’s software, according to Healthcare IT News.
This study found that these future physicians have high expectations for EHRs, with 70 percent of medical students saying the technology is an important factor in deciding where they will practice medicine.
“The incoming batch of doctors are getting exposure to EHR systems early on, so it’s something they are not afraid of,” said Sean Handel, Epocrates vice president of subscriber business. “They can clearly see the benefits and would like to start practicing with one in place.”
See Both Sides
Both sides agree that EHRs will improve quality of care. That alone should make the investment worthwhile. Established physicians can’t afford to be idealistic, however. Instead, they should consider the following health reform provisions:
- Physicians stand to earn incentive payments up to $44,000 if they can demonstrate meaningful use of a certified EHR between 2011-2015.
- Penalties beginning in 2015 are equal to a 1 percent reduction of the physician’s annual Medicare payments per year up to 5 percent.
If it all boils down to money, those two points should be enough for every physician to rule in favor of implementing an EHR. Perhaps it’s more than that, though. If it’s the fear of the unknown holding a physician back, the government has a solution for that, too.
Seek Professional Help
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal, MD, announced Sept. 28 selection of the final Regional Extension Centers (RECs), completing a national system of 62 organizations that will help physicians, clinics and hospitals to move from paper-based medical records to EHRs.
RECs were created last year under the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. HITECH provided approximately $2 billion in new programs to provide training and technical assistance and to demonstrate the effectiveness of health information technology in supporting improvement in care. Under the HITECH Act, $677 million is allocated for the next two years to support a nationwide system of RECs.
RECs will target their assistance to eligible primary care providers in smaller practices as well as small and rural hospitals and public health clinics. The RECs will also serve as a resource for all providers in an area, giving assistance to any doctor, hospital or clinic making the request. Each REC organization has identified a target number of primary care physicians, based on population needs to be assisted in the first two years of the program.
Look for additional information about HIT RECs on the HealthIT website.
Unsure if you are eligible to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid EHR Incentive Program? Use this handy flow chart to find out!