|EHR Value Unproven But Doctors Have To Buy Them, Dentzer Says
Despite the lack of quantitative evidence regarding the
value of EHRs, it’s a no-brainer for doctors to invest in the
technology, said Susan Dentzer, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs,
during an educational session at the 2011 Health Information
Management & Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.
Citing data from the Health Information Exchange of
Southern Illinois, Dentzer mentioned that the total estimate for a
practice to upfront the cost of an EHR and finance the system itself
ranges from $37,000 to $58,000. But the total estimated savings in time
and money for one year, relating to the adoption of an EHR for the
average independent practice, is $14,956. Medical Economics estimated a
$40,000 loss to physicians’ down-coding one level, she said.
Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical
Health (HITECH) bonuses totaling $44,000 from Medicare and a $63,750
from Medicaid to buy the technology is "not chicken feed," she
said,adding that there is still reluctance among some physicians on the
subject of adopting EHRs.
In 2007 and 2008, only 4 percent of physicians had a
fully functional EHR, while 13 percent had a basic system, Dentzer
said. She recited a litany of reasons why doctors are reluctant –
lack of capital resources, fears about inputting data, lack of support
from a practice’s physicians and concern about the loss of
Dentzer cited another reason: Lack of familiarity with
federal law. She cited a Markle Foundation survey that found that while
64 percent of respondents said they were "somewhat or very familiar"
with the HITECH incentives, 36 percent were not very familiar, those
numbers belie their true implications.
More likely, physicians are not as familiar with HITECH incentives as that survey data suggested, she remarked.
And yet physicians want what EHR promises, notably
improved quality, safety and efficiency, as well as the ability to
access charts remotely; it is also crucial and the key tool to
With at least 32 million Americans estimated to enter
the world of the insured thanks to the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act how can practices seek to manage the influx of
insured Americans alongside adopting new technology? she asked.
So what’s going to make a difference in EHR
adoption? Dentzer said she is pinning her hopes on regional extension
centers to reach enough physicians to initiate peer-to-peer
communications. Additional efforts from state health information
exchanges will help educate physicians in their region on the benefits
of EHRs and Beacon Communities will hopefully demonstrate results in
terms of quality, safety, efficiency and population health.
The question of adopting EHRs is "when" not "if," she added.
For more information on Health Affairs, visit www.healthaffairs.org.