Katherine Rourke’s May 20 post over at EMRandEHR.com sparked a very interesting observation that many doctors are rushing into EMR use to get free money. Will the lost productivity more than offset the relatively small amount of money it’s possible to get from the government for Meaningful Use (MU) reporting? She is right on about the required changes in workflow and an overall drop in the number of patients that can be seen at first. However, I have a few further thoughts on this.
Luckily for me, I began with EMR when I opened my practice in 2009 and so there weren’t many patients to be seen. I can still remember how much of a challenge and struggle it was getting to see even three or four patients a day while getting all the electronic stuff done by the end. Granted, I was also offset by getting a new business off the ground and had a lot of non-patient care things to do. That was also back when I was using a bad EMR system with a lot of bugs. When my patient load increased to ten daily, I was spending mostly late evenings until around 9-10 pm getting everything done. A year and a half later and a new, more efficient EMR system acquired three months into my practice, and everything is just peachy.
I can easily see Katherine being right to a degree. Loss of revenue due to lost productivity can easily happen with the wrong system in place due to lack of time spent in research. This is aside from the cost of computer equipment and IT support. I agree with her that medical practices should not be rushing into MU compliance by buying EMR systems before they are really ready. If they want to participate in MU, then I say take the time needed and implement slowly and carefully. You can begin with just as little as a single patient per day — I suggest the last patient of the day to avoid delaying subsequent patient visits. If you do this, then there is basically no productivity loss, and before you know it, you can ramp up speed. I would urge doctors to hand-pick slowly and carefully the EMR vendor that is right for them. Don’t rush in.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.