Reimbursement incentives are pushing more and more physicians to adopt healthcare IT solutions, according to Michael Paquin, president, MDP Group, Thousand Oaks, Calif. That spells opportunity for distributors – not only to sell medical devices that are compatible with electronic medical records, but to understand EMR systems and to help their physician office customers make the transition from manual to paperless.

The road will be bumpy for physicians, said Paquin, speaking on the topic at this fall’s HIDA Conference & Expo in Charlotte, N.C. Not all EMR implementations go well. But the payoff for physicians – and their patients – can be huge. That’s why distributor reps need to get educated on EMR now.

Continuing an effort championed by President Bush before him, President Obama in February 2009 signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the “stimulus act”), earmarking $19 billion to “kick start” implementation of electronic healthcare records. The feds legislated financial incentives to nudge physicians and hospitals toward implementation, and set up a number of programs to offer technical assistance for them to do so.

Simple – but big – vision

The vision is simple, but big: To enable significant and measureable improvements in population health through a transformed healthcare delivery system, said Paquin. It is hoped that electronic medical records will:

  • Improve quality, safety and efficiency.
  • Engage patients and their families.
  • Improve care coordination and population health.
  • Ensure privacy and security protections.

 

But financial incentives – and penalties – notwithstanding, the healthcare community faces a long, hard road toward EMR implementation, he continued. Roughly 20 percent of physicians have a basic EMR system, while just 6 percent have a fully functioning one.

“Many physicians have already received ARRA dollars,” pointed out Paquin, responding to questions from Repertoire after his presentation. “Only 16 percent of respondents have completed Stage 1 [of the so-called ‘meaningful use’ of EMRs], which is not surprising, considering the many other concerns that have been weighing on healthcare organizations as of late.

“Nearly three quarters of physicians say that they are on their way to ‘meaningful use’ Stage 1,” he continues. “Meanwhile, 15 percent say they are not even close to reaching Stage 1. Timing, adherence to guidelines, gathering resources and balancing other projects with completing Stage 1 are doubtless putting a strain on many organizations.

“Stage 2 has been postponed one year, so we will have to monitor the dates going forward to see when and if the penalties actually become enforced.”

Physicians fear that adopting EMR will disrupt their workflow, resulting in a loss of productivity, says Paquin. In fact, these barriers “are so strong that the stimulus alone is not going to push the issue.”

EMR vendors need to acknowledge these fears and act accordingly. “Vendors will need to make the systems much easier to implement and train,” Paquin says. “They must provide much more hands-on training, and physicians must start to realize that they will need to make a real investment of time and energy to make these systems work.

“There will continue to be training problems and poor implementations of EMR as long as vendors promote e-training, and physicians continue to think they can learn an EMR software program in three days.”

To read the full article, which includes how distributors can help physicians make the leap, and the opportunity EMR presents for distributors, click HERE

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