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Thursday August 6, 2020
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November 2010 - Volume 7 - Issue 5
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Physicians Must Adapt an EMR Now to Qualify For Full Reimbursement

The transition from paper-based processes to electronic, automated systems and solutions is viewed as one of the key methods for bringing healthcare facilities and physician practices to a new level of efficiency and standardization that will benefit staff and the quality and timeliness of patient care and services. This transition was brought to the fore front with The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act which was signed into a law by President Obama in February 2009. And since then, the need for physicians to increase their adoption of electronic medical records (EMR’s) has been the topic of numerous discussions.

To encourage the adoption of EMR’s, a stimulus incentive guaranteeing $44,000 to $64,000 in Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement payments is offered to physicians that implement an EMR before 2011. Yet, despite the incentive program, it is estimated that as few as twenty percent of doctors and practices have adopted the technology as planned.
 
The low adoption rate is now becoming concerning. The current environment of this country’s utilization rate is far inferior to other countries. Conversely, some nations reached one-hundred percent adoption of medical record systems by physicians and healthcare centers this year.
 
Why aren't the monetary incentives for adoption of EMR’s effective? The investment costs of an EMR are often a barrier for many physicians. It has been estimated that most EMR’s requires three to five years for a Return on Investment (ROI). The HITECH Act is designed to significantly reduce the ROI via offsetting the costs to assist to make the technology affordable. Hopefully, the funds associated with this stimulus act will change the industry’s perception. With a current average of approximately 30 cents of every healthcare dollar being spent on administrative costs practices need a viable solution.
 
In today’s supply and demand world, there are many options, which can be confusing. Another concern is that the EMR software is also requiring practitioners to modify current workflow and decreasing office productivity. Fortunately, the latest systems developed are designed to work for the doctors within their current workflows, while also being user-friendly. Vendors that allow flexibility in the implementation of their products provide not only minimal interruption to patient care but also allow for easier adoption to the end users. Nevertheless, by adopting EMR, doctors' offices and smaller clinics will notice considerable time savings in phone calls and the associated expenses. With the realistic possibility of being able to conserve twenty or more minutes per hour on paperwork and phone hold time accessing results and arranging referrals.
 
As many analysts have pointed out, medical revenues after adopting a new technology reduces staff overtime. Medical providers adopting EMR should quickly notice that it manages information quicker and more effectively.
 
The well documented financial incentives are not the only reason practitioners should make a swift move to EMR. Consumer awareness regarding healthcare has drastically increased in recent history. Many patients are now expecting state-of-the-art technology from their physicians, and they choose their doctors based on their willingness to embrace newer technology.
Studies now reflect a growing number of patients have even been willing to supplement the additional cost of having their records transferred and retained in an electronic format (i.e. Personal Health Record, or PHR). The twenty-first century patient is now familiarized with technology and the role of information in their lives. They want to improve their overall care and health, while reducing the incidence of medical and medicine errors.
 
The resources and technology of larger clinics are directly challenging the independent practice. An opportunity to compete with larger practices and institutions is enhanced by utilizing EMR’s. The stimulus funds will help to jump-start the adoption process. EMR’s work to solve the problems of quality, costs, patient retention, and efficiency in a medical practice, which results in improved healthcare services.
 
In the interim, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), often referred to as “The Stimulus Package,” will be instituted from the beginning of 2011, and will last for five years. In each successive year, there is a decreasing payment schedule until 2016. By 2015, physicians who have not fully accepted EMR will suffer reductions in payments in Medicare and Medicaid. This means provider reimbursements will start to drop by incremental percentages, up to five percent by the year 2018. Ultimately this will lead to harsher regulations and the imminent mandating of Electronic Medical Records, all within this decade.
 
Many physicians are reluctance adopt an EMR. This could quite realistically be due to costs, uncertainty, and doubt, as well as the other factors discussed. But if a physician wants to ensure that their practice can qualify for the full amount of funding to off-set their costs of an EMR, they need to act quite quickly.
 
How often is one given the chance to obtain funds from the government to purchases items that will not only increase patient safety and satisfaction, reduce costs and boost productivity, and will soon be required in the very near future?
Joseph Castonova, III, President of MedX, can be reached at (305)576-9999or joe@e-zmd.com or visit www.e-zmd.com.
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