Am I really giving out better care because I use an EMR system? Out of respect for my colleagues on paper charts, I have to say probably not. In fact, a recent study actually supports this. Does an EMR allow me to find things faster from my chair and lessen the likelihood of anything getting lost? Absolutely. I read an interesting article in American Medical News the other day on the historic event of the first incentive checks from the government beginning to arrive to what sounds like a very few doctors. In “Meaningful use checks begin to arrive,” we learn of two doctors living and practicing in a family medicine clinic in Durant, Oklahoma who each got $21,250 just now. It turns out that they have a 50% Medicaid population and spent $27,000 on an EMR system five years ago with ongoing maintenance costs of $10,000 annually. So if we do the math — by year five, we’re up to $67,000 — and anticipate that eventually the incentive checks go bye-bye, how is this remotely justifiable from a fiscal perspective? They’re merely stuck paying an ongoing fee and making the EMR company rich. Now, since I am not paying for my EMR vendor’s product (which I highly recommend if you are okay with that), this is not much of an issue for me. Nevertheless, I think it’s a bit of a raw deal for those who are paying. An alternative solution for those paying for EMR systems? Make sure your break-even analysis is clear and that you are actually not hurting yourself in the long run. What do you think out there?
Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com.