Information Technology holds the promise to spur innovation in the healthcare industry. However, if IT investment is focused on simply meeting mandates and not on driving a specific differentiated business objective, then it begins to look a lot like what we are seeing today – extensive capital and resources spent on implementing and supporting IT initiatives that, so far, have provided little to no financial returns. But this does not mean that the promise of IT is empty. Instead, it calls attention to the need to look at IT not as a way to “check the box” and either collect federal incentive dollars or avoid eventual penalties, but rather as a key tool to remain competitive in the market as well as provide quality care.
In light of recent federal mandates under meaningful use regarding the implementation of electronic health records, many EHR vendors are now propagating the idea that their software is not only compliant with regulatory statutes, but is also a singular comprehensive and strategic IT investment. However, this is just half the truth.
Under the pressures of time and expiring incentives, many healthcare executives have leapt after EHR investments without understanding the real strategic reasons for making IT investments for their enterprises. Otherwise savvy and well-meaning healthcare leaders are allowing EHR vendors to convince them that an EHR is the answer to their business needs and will provide them with an edge over competitors in the market. In reality, EHRs fail to provide a competitive advantage once most or all hospitals in a geographic market have implemented the tool. How can an organization claim it is superior in IT if it is operating the same systems as every other provider in the market? EHRs must be approached as a one-time operational input or business asset similar to hospital equipment and not the core component of a broader IT solution needed to support a sustainable business strategy. As with most investments, it is what you do with it which matters, not that you simply own it.
Implementation of electronic health records is considered a national priority in this era of healthcare reform. However if EHRs are not implemented correctly they can be painful.
EHRs that are not implemented effectively can affect productivity and revenue. The extra documentation requirements and intricate workflows create distance between physicians and their patients. Physicians have reported that they spend too much time on EHRs and that they don’t get enough time to interact with their patients. But physicians often communicate that spending time on EHRs is crucial to creating a trusted set of structured data that can guide their business. Every click that providers make creates important data points that can be used to inform the efficient delivery of their practice.
Every EHR saves a large amount of data inside it regarding patient health, effectiveness of treatments, system efficiency and provider tendencies. Despite the extra time and effort that is dedicated to electronic documentation, many practices and physicians do not make full use of this precious data set that they have produced.
If a practice can get its EHR adoption right they can make a number of positive results, some of which are mentioned below:
By overcoming the difficulties providers can see more patients and will be able to generate more billed revenue using its existing staff. Furthermore, if a provider is using its EHR efficiently then the improved documentation produces billing at higher rates, combined with increased patient flow. This represents significant potential revenue.
Quick Cash Flow
Many of the practices work on revenue cycle management, but few make it flawless. With increased charge accuracy and reduced time for denials, there will be an increase in the yield with timely reimbursements by the payers.
What follows is a fascinating graphic from NueMD, which asks a simple, yet provocative question: Is meaningful use helping or hurting EHR adoption?
CMS launched the program to “reward healthcare practitioners for adopting electronic health records and increasing efficiency within their practice.” According to the graphic, and the research complied here, 2013 was a successful year by all accounts as far as EHR adoption is concerned. However, as pointed out by NueMD, attestation of meaningful use is slowing.
Particularly alarming are the figures from the small practice space, with 50 percent or so of these physicians groups implementing the technology, yet only 25 percent or so of this group attesting and receiving incentives for doing so.
Additionally, satisfaction with using EHR technology also has dramatically decreased for those who might be called technology champions while those who might be labeled as EHR “haters” have begun to hate the technology even more.
Finally, of those deciding to make the technology switch to a new system cite lack of system functionality as the primary reason for doing so. So, of the physicians that are not implementing the systems, are they simply deciding to absorb the financial penalties mandated by the feds? If that’s the case, what will the outcome of meaningful use be?
And, if efficiencies are not gained, as promised, are we really any closer to an improved healthcare system where physicians, especially those in small practices, actually get to spend time with the patients they desire to serve?
Guest post by Brian White, founder of Competitive Solutions.
Should every physician practice adopt electronic health records? Maybe not. When evaluating the transition to an EHR system, it is critical to consider the long-term efficiency of the practice. Simply put, EHR adoption will not yield operational improvements for every practice.
While many practices using EHRs increase the overall throughput of the business and enhance profitability, others struggle with adoption of the new technology – slowing operations and creating significant financial losses. Many practices repeatedly change vendors or abandon the EHR entirely after significant investment. Making the right decision for your individual practice and navigating the pitfalls of EHR implementation can be difficult and time-consuming. Maximize your potential for success by undertaking a strategic evaluation that includes the following considerations.
If your practice has not adopted EHR, is now the time to do so?
1. What are the operational benefits/detriments of adoption?
a. Will EHR allow the practice to see more patients? Or, will it cause the practice to see fewer patients?
b. Will EHR require additional labor in the day-to-day function of treating patients? (In most cases, the answer to this question will be yes.)
c. Will EHR provide the ability to track trends in patient status, statistical data or ease of access that will be more efficient and/or clinically beneficial?