As We Know, Even with an EHR in Place, Information Sharing is Not Necessarily Easier

As We Know, Even with an EHR in Place, Information Sharing is Not Necessarily Easier
Joseph Wager

Guest post by Joseph Wager, senior risk management and patient safety specialist, Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc.

With the mandate of electronic health records (EHR) across the nation, hospitals and physicians are researching, evaluating and purchasing EHR Systems. These systems range in price from affordable with minimal investment to the Rolls Royce version.

Many hospitals are investing large capital dollars for EHR programs. Hospitals must choose a vendor that will meet the organization’s needs. Physicians may choose systems that are more narrowly focussed to the needs of their offices and their specialization. In other words, interoperability may be addressed for hospital EHR systems with their more diverse internal users and may not be a major consideration for a non-network physician. Even with anEHR system in place, they do not necessarily make information sharing easier since many of them do not have interoperability outside of their networks.

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Taking the Good with the Bad: The Healthcare Community is Indeed Embarking On a Tumultuous Road Ahead

After a detailed conversation recently with a practicing physician, my long-held suspicions about meaningful use may be coming to fruition.

You see, though I’m a believer in meaningful use from a data collection perspective and for the benefits it provides the healthcare community in being better able to track outcomes and measure results, I’m also concerned with the amount of regulation and oversight required of the reform. Additionally, I’m concerned about how the overbearing amount of added reform is affecting the thousands of small businesses that are private practices.

With the added mandates and with the continual burdening requirements of the physician as educator to patients, there’s only so much room left for them to take on their tasks as caregiver.

All of that said there is some growing resentment in the healthcare community that suggests physicians are growing resentful of their educational assignment.

“Our job is not patient education,” the physician I spoke with said, asking that his name be withheld. “We’re on the precipice, teeter tottering on the verge of collapse and the system is going to fall down. We’re being pushed to the extreme with patients. We need to see more patients per hour just to cover our expenses because the margins have disappeared.

“We’re forced to focus on getting more patients through the door; we don’t have time to focus even more on patient care,” he said.

Besides meaningful use, there are other issues to address in healthcare, he said, like 5010, ICD-10, Medicare and Medicaid changes and insurance hurdles.

On top of these issues, physicians struggle with internal operations because of the financial cuts to their practices. With ever-changing reimbursement rates affecting the amount of money they can bring into their practices, practice leaders also have to worry about making payroll. Certainly, physician salaries are declining. Gone are the days when physicians were guaranteed lucrative careers.

The more likely model now will become the one where physicians become employees.

“Healthcare reform essentially is putting the private practice out of business,” he said.

In the long run, the only successful private practice model will likely come down to where large practices dominate the landscape. Anything less than a 300-physician group probably won’t survive, he said.

“This is the reality of what we’re seeing in the outside world.”

Add all of this to a physician shortage that’s only getting worse, and the healthcare community is indeed embarking on a tumultuous road ahead.