Doctor Explains Why He’s Avoiding EMR

Dr. Peter Kambelos likes being in solo practice because he can make all the decisions.

And for now, the internist has decided to keep using paper records.

Kambelos

It’s partially an economic decision. He doesn’t feel he can afford the switch to an EMR.

Politics might play a bit of a role, too. Kambelos, who is president-elect of the Academy of Medicine of Cincinnati, likes to keep the government out of his exam room.

Still, he doesn’t rule out going electronic in the not-too-distant future. After all, he’s a mid-career physician, and it would be absurd to think of sticking with analog charts forever.

Late adopters like Kambelos represent an opportunity for health IT vendors, but one that will be challenging to capitalize on. As I wrote previously, future EMR-industry growth will require more resources and creativity to achieve.

More than 50 percent of physician offices have adopted an electronic records system, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Among family physicians, one group of researchers found, the number is likely to exceed 80 percent this year.

In an interview, Kambelos explained why he practices — and thinks — the way he does.

Tell me about your practice.

It’s a large internal medicine practice with many elderly patients. I take care of generations of people, grandparents to grandkids. We know our patients and their families, and they know us. This has been, and remains, our patients’ “medical home.” I have two employees and they work hard.

What is record-keeping like in your practice?

I’ve practiced with paper charts for 17 years and they work fine for me. Many are very thick and chock-full of years of valuable and pertinent data. But I have my patients’ histories in my head and don’t need to be chained to a paper chart or an EMR to provide them with outstanding medical care and supervision. Most doctors who really know their patients can say the same.

Have you seriously considered moving to an EMR, and why?

Yes, for the supposed improved efficiency once fully implemented.

Are the Meaningful Use incentives much of a motivator?

Zero. The government is the biggest obstacle to health care delivery in this country.

Do vendors often reach out to you?

Periodically, we receive in-person and virtual solicitations. It happens a couple of times a month, perhaps.

Why haven’t you made the shift?

One reason and one reason only: the cost of making the transition, both in terms of my limited productivity during such a transition and the inherent labor costs in so doing.

In your view, what is the primary shortcoming of the systems out there?

Lack of interoperability. As I understand it, most EHRs don’t interface such that data across hospital systems is readily available to any given user.

What should EMR companies know about doctors like you?

We don’t fear, but rather embrace, new technology. But we work on tight budgets and cannot absorb the costs associated with transitions like this. Federal grants come nowhere near covering these costs and come with too many strings attached.