Planning is Key to Maximizing Next Wave of EHR Tools

FEBRUARY 15, 2015
Ed Rabinowitz
Doctor with tabletWhile healthcare providers large and small continue to make expanded use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) tools, the vast majority—96%—believes that their technology infrastructure is ill prepared for the next iteration of EHR functionality.
That’s the result of a new report from MeriTalk, and sponsored by EMC2, a computer data storage company.
And it doesn’t surprise Sean Morris, director of sales for Digitech Systems, Inc.
“They’re still struggling to get their arms around what they have,” Morris explains. “And more important, bridging the gap between paper-based files with historical information and the latest wave of technology that houses a lot of the electronic data they’ve recently captured.”
Trying to Keep Up

For the small- to mid-size medical practice, and even for some small hospitals, the challenge of keeping up with technology changes can be daunting. Between meaningful use and the new wave of EHR tools, physicians are asking, how do I afford this in my practice, and will I need costly upgrades to my infrastructure every few years?
Morris says those questions are spot on.
“Let’s face it, EMR technology has not really been an affordable solution, both from a software standpoint, and from an infrastructure standpoint for smaller practices that take advantage of it,” he says. “Yet, they’re required to, right? So, I think there’s a huge fear as we continue to see technology evolve that, hey, I’m going to have to change out my hardware or my infrastructure in order to support this next wave or this new evolution of technology.”
Robert Hitchcock, MD, FACEP, chief medical informatics officer with T-System Inc., and a practicing emergency physician, agrees. He says the challenge of keeping up with meaningful use has been too much for many small medical practices.
“We’re seeing a lot of physicians opting out of stage 2 and taking the CMS hit,” Hitchcock explains. “And the main reasons for that are they’re going through pretty constant changes, and these changes are very disruptive to the practice and their operations.”
Cost-benefit Analysis

Walking away from the next wave of EHR tools, however, also means leaving a lot of data on the table. And in a healthcare environment giving more weight to value-based outcomes and linking that to reimbursement, an alternate strategy might be appropriate.
Stepping back and conducting a cost-benefit analysis, Hitchcock says, can be beneficial on many fronts. He believes that medical practices and hospitals need to get back to some basics. They need to look at how they can run their operation effectively and efficiently. And not just with regard to how they meet the regulatory demands of the clinical quality data reporting, but how they can reduce their costs internally.

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