Are Small Practices Well Served By EHRs?

Kareo Logo - 300x129 pixelsKareo, a company I have come to quietly respect (the company does not sponsor this site in any way) issued the following graphic (something else I have come to really like). I’m a visual person and there’s often no better way to convey complicated information like that found in health IT and I find the following graphic filled with much telling information, and seems to beg whether small practices are served well by EHRs.

This graphic seems to speak to a bigger picture of what’s going on currently in the space. This information tells the story of how it is becoming more difficult to maintain autonomy in private practice, but not impossible. With technology, small practices can thrive. But, is there enough focus on the small practices for technology to make the difference Kareo says it can?

Kareo has skin in this game, after all, and makes its position clear: “The solution is technology, and not just one piece of software but a fully-integrated seamless package of solutions from a single vendor … most physician practices know that to remain independent they will have to make changes.

“The willingness to change is important because success may rely on seeing your practice as a business and carefully considering and evaluating your bottom line. While many physicians in practices with five providers or fewer are still hesitant to adopt an EHR, the potential benefits are indisputable.”

According to Kareo, EHRs can help improve profitability, increase physician and patient satisfaction and positively impact patient care, but getting to the numbers at hand, apparently the smaller the practice, the less likely they are to have an EHR. Logic says that suitable solutions for small practices just don’t exist. There are solutions, yes (Kareo, raise your hand), but will the shrinking market and fewer available vendors help small practices? Vendors simply do not have money to invest in the small practices, even though they make up most of the market, and given the amount of return on investment in selling to small practices, vendors overlook small practices in search of bigger practices with more money to spend.

Of those small practices with an EHR, however, only 40 percent have a system that is meaningful use ready, which is a scary proposition given that Stage 2 is on our heels. That’s a huge problem for health IT and a bigger problem for physicians that implemented systems looking to meet the standard.

As a side note, physicians still feel that EHRs are hard to use, according to this graphic, go figure.

The benefits of using an EHR, according to Kareo, is related to money. Apparently, it’s easier to bill and get paid with the systems in place, which might make an argument that EHRs are just robust practice management systems. Also, e-prescribing is easier and money is saved by not having to buy so much paper. Bottom of this list is that EHRs make for more efficient practices.

And though there’s plenty of talk about improved patient outcomes when using an EHR, the physicians of this study provide no hard data to back such claims, just opinions. For example: 60 percent of physicians the value to the patient of having and EHR outweighs its cost and 73 percent of physicians “believe” healthcare information technology will improve quality of care.

So, are small practices well served by EHRs?

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