By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
By now, you’re probably tired of hearing the letters EHR. We’ve been talking about them for years. You’ll probably be hearing about them right up until you retire! We’re not alone on this path in the United States. In March of this year Dr. David Blumenthal, who was for a time the Obama administration’s national coordinator for health information technology, said, “There is not a single-payer system in the world that is not going all out to adopt electronic health records.”
Like all new developments in medicine, there is a healthy debate about the usefulness of electronic health records and what affect they’ll have on patient care. No matter what side of the debate you fall on, they are the way of the future, unless you’d rather take a hit on Medicare and Medicaid payments. The good news is you’ve got some time. Medicare and Medicaid incentives will end after 2016 and 2021, respectively.
Incentives are still around for now. Before you start to worry that you’re missing the boat, consider the upfront costs of implementing an EHR system at your practice. It can get complicated quickly, so taking your time, doing research, and preparing carefully is key. HealthIT.gov is designed to provide information for providers and professionals about EHRs and all they entail. The website provides a checklist for providers as you start your switch.
There are many decisions to be made and choices to consider. Which EHR system will you use? How do you know which one to pick? And most importantly – who at your practice will take the lead and take charge of the system?
The best advice I can give is this: do your research. If you’re a medical professional, you’ve already learned how to study. Implementing EHRs is just another exam, so read, learn, and collaborate. Ask other health care professionals what systems they’ve used and why they’re still using them, or why they’ve moved to something else. Check out systems that work well for hospitals or work well for small practices.
What IT support will you need? EHRs come with bugs and a learning curve like any other program. They also come with devices, tablets, computers, printers, and servers. Determine if there’s already a person on staff that can get trained to become your new IT professional. PhysiciansPractice.com reports that many experts agree that the minimum salary for a full-time IT staffer is $60,000. Whether you hire a new employee or not, someone will have to dedicate themselves to understanding the system.
From one medical professional and owner of a small practice to another, I’ll tell you: the transition isn’t always easy. Keep at it! And good luck to you.