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Reasons Physicians lag behind Hospitals for EHR adoption

Posted Feb 19 2009 6:06pm

Environment"EHR adoption among physicians is lagging behind larger hospital system adoption. There’s a great need for physicians to be educated and work with consultants for implementation in ambulatory practice."   Link: Destination HIMSS

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when I write about the essential need for education on healthcare information technology use, but it was interesting to read this quote about the need for education.

It seems logical that hospitals are more advanced than physician practices because they have deeper pockets, or there is a higher possibility that people within the organization have some level of IT knowledge, or any number of probable reasons.

Education

Since profit margins are thin in physician practices, where is the time to learn about technology? Is technology easy enough to learn in a few hours? NO. Does staff have the time to learn about choices, features, and functionality of EHR software and how it applies to the practice? What are the issues that need to be evaluated in addition to the software itself?

Thinking about EHR adoption?

An important part of the evaluation process for purchasing an EHR, or any other technology/software for a medical practice comes down to a few rational considerations, although answering these questions will not be a simple task.

1. Understand the current situation (a.k.a. "The As-Is").

  • What software is being used?
  • Would the existing work flow process be helped or hindered by use of software?
  • Is the practice completely paper-based or is some technology used, and if so, for what purposes?
  • What are the overhead costs for using and maintaining hardware and software in the practice?

2. Develop a picture of the desired situation (a.k.a. "The To-Be").

  • Remain paper-based or migrate to electronic records?
  • Receive incentive bonuses or potential funding for EHRs and e-Prescribing?
  • Reduce overhead costs for in-house technology?
  • What are the risks? the liabilities?

3. How do you get there? What's your strategy?

  • Do you know enough about technology to make an informed choice?
  • Delegate a staff person to look at options?
  • Hire a consultant?
  • Talk with vendors?

4. If you decide on a software solution, how do you implement it?

  • By yourself?
  • With the vendor's guidance?
  • Hire a consultant?
  • Your best friend's son or daughter who knows technology?

The issues around software adoption for a physician's practice can be overwhelming. Who and what can you trust?...not to mention the big one... How much does it cost? Then, consider that a medical practice, in today's economy, has razor-thin margins and significant time constraints.

So, to summarize, it is most likely that lack of technical knowledge, lack of funds, and lack of time have been contributing factors to adoption. However, do physicians want to reduce their costs? simplify billing? improve workflow and efficiency? improve clinical knowledge? provide better patient care? My answer? YES!

If you've been involved in software adoption within a primary care practice, Share your feedback and comments about your experiences.

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day!

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