Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Doctors using fully implemented EHRs report lower costs, higher productivity... By Joseph Conn

Doctors using fully implemented EHRs report lower costs, higher productivity, MGMA finds

By Joseph Conn
Healthcare Business News: Posted: April 6, 2011 - 8:15 am ET

Ambulatory-care physicians who have implemented an electronic health-record system are largely satisfied with their purchases, and their satisfaction increases if they have their EHR systems optimized, according to data from a survey by the Medical Group Management Association.
The survey also indicates financial benefits accruing to the practices tend to optimization levels.

More than seven in 10 practices (72%) that had completed an EHR implementation were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their systems, according to the survey. Those that claimed they had fully optimized their systems were even more pleased—86% were "satisfied" or "very satisfied."

In addition, the financial rewards of EHR adoption were greater for those who had fully optimized their systems. According to the survey, 61% of respondents who reported their EHR had been fully optimized indicated their systems had 1) increased provider productivity and 2) boosted practice revenue, compared with 37% and 42% respectively, for those practices that had an EHR implemented but were still focusing on getting dialed in with their systems.

Veteran numbers cruncher Dave Gans, the MGMA's vice president of innovation and research, oversaw the survey project and said that what jumped out of the data for him was that "organizations not only are acquiring electronic health records, they're embracing electronic health records." He added: "It's changing the way they're doing business. We're re-engineering healthcare. That's what's coming through."

"(For) the majority of the organizations, they reduce their cost, and increase their productivity," Gans said. “The popular conception is that electronic health records slow you down, they cost you money, and we wouldn't want them. And now we have a very large sample of people who say we've embraced it, it's making a difference and we're satisfied with what we're doing.”

The MGMA study gleans information from a cross-section of physician group practices, including independent medical practices, 59%; hospital- or integrated delivery system-owned practices, 17%; academic faculty practices, 5%; federally qualified health centers or community health centers, 3%; and more than a half dozen other practice arrangements, representing workplaces of more than 120,000 physicians in total. Data was collected between Oct. 1, 2010, and Nov. 9, 2010. There was a "profusion" of 148 EHR systems in use by survey participants, with no one system capturing more than an 11% share of the systems reported.

More than half (52%) of those practices surveyed reported that they used an EHR system. In comparison, 36% used paper charts and 6% used a document scanning system. Of the practices still using paper records, 63% plan to adopt an EHR system and seek federal incentive payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The survey was open to practices of all sizes, and nearly 10% were one- and two-physician practices; while 23% had three or fewer physicians.

EHR adoption rates in the MGMA survey comport with preliminary estimates from the 2010 survey by the National Center for health Statistics, which found that 51% were using at least a partial EHR system.

But among the practices in the MGMA study that claim to have an EHR system, nearly a quarter (24%) said the system is still being implemented. Only 16% indicated they have completed implementation and believe they have optimized their systems.

Even among provides with fully optimized systems, a lack of EHR interoperability functions could be a barrier to meeting federal meaningful-use criteria and qualifying for federal EHR incentive payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to the survey.

Only 44% of practices with optimized systems reported their EHRs could meet meaningful-use criteria for clinical decision support and exchanging clinical information with other providers. Only 38% of optimizers reported their systems could send clinical quality measures to CMS or to states.

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