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Affording an Office EMR May be Becoming Easier

January 24, 2008
by James Feldbaum
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Affording an office EMR may be becoming easier. Arguably, the cost of implementing an EMR is offset by savings in improved efficiency, but faith in this claim is not widespread. Now, there are more incentives to aid physicians in undertaking the up-front costs of transition from paper to electronic records.

Hospitals seem slow to take action in subsidizing EMR purchases for physicians in the community since the relaxation of the Stark rules. Many hospitals have successful EMRs up and running, often with remote access in heavy usage by their physicians. It would be the logical next step to tie the medical community together with an integrated EMR. Many practices will be hesitant to walk away from their personal investment in their present software (time and money) to incorporate the hospital’s existing EMR. There are problems inherent in integrating dispirit office EMRs to a hospital, but the longer the hospital waits the greater the diversity of software products that will crop up in the community.

The pay-for-performance initiatives will require an EMR in place to participate. The Bush administration has recruited about 1,200 doctors nationally to adopt an EMR in their medical practice in return for higher Medicare payments. Medicare will pay the physicians extra for completing tasks online, such as when ordering prescriptions or recording the results of lab tests. The highest payments will go to those physicians who most aggressively use the technology and who score the highest in an annual evaluation. We will see the third party payors follow suit.

This week, the MHA Insurance Company, which provides medical professional liability insurance to more than 3,000 independent physicians in eight states has joined the growing number of malpractice insurers that will grant a premium credit (of up to 5 percent ) for qualifying policyholders who utilize an EMR system. This discount would be available to both independent solo physicians and group physician practices. Clearly, malpractice carriers see value in the EMR.

The decision to adopt an EMR for the office has always made sense from a practice improvement and safety standpoint. Now, a reducing financial burden might be what it takes for the late-adopters to get aboard.

If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going.

Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

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