Tom Chernitsky has over 15 years experience in the fields of Document and Information Management. He is currently President of File Management Solutions, LLC, which offers a variety of solutions for helping Practices digitze their paper files to be linked into an EMR system.
As we SLOWLY progress towards the Government putting in place an actual plan to fulfill the goals set forth for Healthcare in the American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009, the backlash seems on the verge of overtaking the talk of actual good that would be achieved.
Perhaps it’s because without a clear plan, everyone has had the opportunity to focus on the negatives. Maybe it’s because many think that by the time a plan is in place, it will already be 2020. Or it could just be the general fact that no one likes when the government mandates change.
The fact is, the HealthCare Industry is one of the few remaining industries that seem to be intent on believing that a paper based system of record keeping is superior to an electronic one. Whether it’s a one Physician Practice or a large chain of hospitals, the fact that patient records are still in paper form, and so many believe this is still the best method, indicates the enormous challenge faced in succeeding in meeting these goals .
Let’s first look at the large clinics and hospitals. Any of these organizations that are still on a patient based record system undoubtedly use a variety of computer applications for billing, payroll, inventory, accounting, Human Resource, etc. Why? Because it works better and more efficiently than filling file drawers full of paper. It saves money, adds to the bottom line, and all and all makes life simpler for all involved.
To think that the same isn’t true with patient records is to believe that Healthcare is so incredibly different than every other “business” in the world that technology couldn’t possibly help them. Yes, Healthcare is different, but every industry that has made the change in the past 20 years has said the same thing. That’s why there are industry specific programs and platforms for each industry. Are they perfect? Of course not, but most are far more efficient than rooms and drawers full of paper records. And there probably isn’t an industry that has made the switch then decided after to ditch the digital and go back to paper.
As for the burden of meeting Meaningful Use criteria being too stringent for small practices to meet, this is again an excuse to avoid change. While some of the criteria may be excessive, overall it will be a roadmap to what practices have to do in order to use an EMR system in a way that actually provides the benefits it is designed to provide. Buying an EMR system and using only half the features will undoubtedly lead to the system not generating the ROI it is capable of providing. Being forced to meet Meaningful Use is a way of ensuring offices are using their EMR system in a way that will provide them with the benefits it is designed to provide.
No other industry has received the funding and support to make this transition that the Healthcare field has at their disposal. Perhaps many Physicians are unaware of exactly what is available to them to aid them with this transition. Most of the talk is about the money received for meeting Meaningful Use criteria. In fact, that is probably the least of the benefits.
The Regional Extension Centers are assembling teams of vendors to assist along every step of the way, which means it’s not just an EMR vendor plugging in a system, giving a bit of training, then walking away saying “good luck.” The REC’s have received a tremendous amount of government funding to ensure they provide the services they are supposed to provide. There are ramifications involved for those REC’s that do not meet their goals, giving them incentive to provide the services they have been tasked with providing.
Change is never easy. If it is, it’s probably not enough of a change to have much impact. These are big changes, and there will be many stumbling blocks along the way. But in the end, even small practices will see increased profits based on a more efficient system, while at the same providing patients with better all around care. It will just take some time, and the understanding that sometimes change is good.
I always love when smart people are interested in doing guest posts on my blog. They offer a different perspective than what I offer and I think that’s great. I definitely don’t have all the answers and there’s always a number of different viewpoints on every given situation. If you have something interesting to say or an opposing viewpoint feel free to drop me a note.