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Is Your EHR Contributing to Physician Burnout?

Posted on September 28, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sara Plampin, Senior Instructional Writer from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Sara Plampin - The Breakaway Group
It’s finally come, the day you’ve been working toward for years – Go Live. Thousands (or even millions) of dollars, hundreds of hours planning and calculating and going back to the drawing board, and it’s about to pay off. You sit back and take a breath, proudly watching as your organization takes its first steps into the future.

And then the complaints start to trickle in. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) feels clunky, it doesn’t match current workflows, documentation takes too long, and the physicians refuse to use it.

Frustrations over EHR functionality and increased documentation time are a leading cause of burnout among medical workers. Physician practices, in particular, are showing a decrease in EHR use over time. Physicians say hefty documentation requirements take away valuable face-to-face time with patients, making them feel more like scribes than doctors.

The issue has led to physician groups reviving the ‘Quadruple Aim’ movement, in which physician wellness is more emphasized.

quadruple-aim-of-healthcare-physician-wellness

While many are quick to attribute this dissatisfaction to the EHR itself, it is more likely the result of a poor implementation plan that focused more on technological requirements and less on long-term adoption needs. There are three ways to ensure the needs of physicians and clinical staff are met and you have a successful EHR adoption.

Involve Clinical Staff from the Get-Go
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is failing to include clinical staff in the initial decision-making process. Before choosing an EHR vendor, assemble a team of representatives from all areas of your organization – not just physicians and nurses. Ancillary departments such as therapy, radiology, and pharmacy are often overlooked when it comes to EHR design and training. Each representative will be aware of the specific needs and workflows for their department; they can compile requests from their colleagues and help research different vendor options to determine which EHR is the ideal match for your organization.

Once the EHR is selected, clinical staff members become an integral part of the design team. Although vendor representatives can help identify best practice workflows, ultimately your employees are the experts on how the EHR will be used in their department. HIMSS physicians cited five factors that contribute to EHR usability issues: navigation, data entry, structured documentation, interoperability, and clinical decision support. Involving clinicians in the design and testing phases allows them to identify solutions to some of these common issues, making the EHR more intuitive for future users.

Including members from all areas of the organization not only ensures better EHR selection and design – it also improves morale. When staff feel like their voices are heard, the project becomes a joint initiative rather than a regulation from upper management. Representatives from the design team act as a go-between, communicating their peers’ requests to executives, while in turn reinforcing the importance of the transition and garnering excitement for go live and beyond.

Realistic, Time-Effective Training
Once the EHR design is solid, the next step is to make sure all staff are properly trained and comfortable using the application. While this may seem obvious, training is another area where many organizations fall short. It is not just the amount of training that matters, but also the type and timing of training. Full-day classroom training sessions can be ineffective for adult learners. Additionally, planning training days around complicated shift schedules is difficult, as is finding replacement staff. This is particularly an issue at small physician practices, where physicians may have to sacrifice patient time in order to complete training.

A more modern, time-effective approach to training is online simulation. Learning is chunked into modules based on small tasks users may complete throughout their day. Thus, learning can be spread over days or weeks, whenever the physician has a free moment. Simulations allow learners to practice using the EHR, giving them the chance to fail without repercussions and develop muscle memory for daily tasks. By go live, using the EHR should feel like second nature.

A lot of the frustrations users feel about navigation and documentation requirements result from their unfamiliarity with the application. When they receive the right training, they will feel confident using the EHR, thus reducing documentation time and increasing face-to-face time with patients.

Constant Feedback/Reevaluation
As with all large-scale projects, even the best laid plans are bound to hit a snag or two. If you’ve established a solid communication channel with all department representatives, you will be prepared to handle any complaints that come your way after go live. It is important that all staff have a clear path to communicate problems and suggestions, and that they are comfortable doing so. The best way to avoid dissatisfaction among your employees is to hear their complaints and proactively fix these issues.

If you’ve already implemented an EHR and are now dealing with the types of complaints outlined above, this is the place for you to start. Create testing and measurement procedures to determine how users are currently using the EHR, where they are getting stuck and where their actions deviate from prescribed workflows. Then, work with each department to determine where EHR functionality can be tweaked, workflows redesigned or a combination of both. Effective adoption requires a constant cycle of communication, design, training, evaluation, and redesign.

If you want to make sure your employees are happy with the EHR and physicians avoid burnout, go live is just the beginning.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

Time To Leverage EHR Data Analytics

Posted on May 5, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

For many healthcare organizations, implementing an EHR has been one of the largest IT projects they’ve ever undertaken. And during that implementation, most have decided to focus on meeting Meaningful Use requirements, while keeping their projects on time and on budget.

But it’s not good to stay in emergency mode forever. So at least for providers that have finished the bulk of their initial implementation, it may be time to pay attention to issues that were left behind in the rush to complete the EHR rollout.

According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics practice, it’s time for healthcare organizations to focus on a new set of EHR data analytics approaches. PwC argues that there is significant opportunity to boost the value of EHR implementations by using advanced analytics for pre-live testing and post-live monitoring. Steps it suggests include the following:

  • Go beyond sample testing: While typical EHR implementation testing strategies look at the underlying systems build and all records, that may not be enough, as build efforts may remain incomplete. Also, end-user workflow specific testing may be occurring simultaneously. Consider using new data mining, visualization analytics tools to conduct more thorough tests and spot trends.
  • Conduct real-time surveillance: Use data analytics programs to review upstream and downstream EHR workflows to find gaps, inefficiencies and other issues. This allows providers to design analytic programs using existing technology architecture.
  • Find RCM inefficiencies: Rather than relying on static EHR revenue cycle reports, which make it hard to identify root causes of trends and concerns, conduct interactive assessment of RCM issues. By creating dashboards with drill-down capabilities, providers can increase collections by scoring patients invoices, prioritizing patient invoices with the highest scores and calculating the bottom-line impact of missing payments.
  • Build a continuously-monitored compliance program: Use a risk-based approach to data sampling and drill-down testing. Analytics tools can allow providers to review multiple data sources under one dashboard identify high-risk patterns in critical areas such as billing.

It’s worth noting, at this point, that while these goals seem worthy, only a small percentage of providers have the resources to create and manage such programs. Sure, vendors will probably tell you that they can pop a solution in place that will get all the work done, but that’s seldom the case in reality. Not only that, a surprising number of providers are still unhappy with their existing EHR, and are now living in replacing those systems despite the cost. So we’re hardly at the “stop and take a breath” stage in most cases.

That being said, it’s certainly time for providers to get out of whatever defensive crouch they’ve been in and get proactive. For example, it certainly would be great to leverage EHRs as tools for revenue cycle enhancement, rather than the absolute revenue drain they’ve been in the past. PwC’s suggestions certainly offer a useful look on where to go from here. That is, if providers’ efforts don’t get hijacked by MACRA.

EHR Computer Setup

Posted on January 6, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently had a doctors visit at a local quick care. When I go to these visits, it’s almost like work since I’m interested in what EHR they’re using and what they think of the EHR, meaningful use, government money, ICD-10, etc.

In this case, the organization had an EHR for half of the work they did, but were still on paper for the other half. However, they were switching all of their work over to a new EHR the next week. I think they told me they gave them a couple hours of training to learn the new system (good luck with that).

While I was waiting in the exam room, I saw this wall mounted computer setup (pictured below):

EHR Wall Computer Setup

Obviously you can tell that this wall mounted computer wasn’t being used yet. It must have come with the new EHR roll out. I’ll be interested to go back again in the future and see how this computer is used. I’m a big proponent of computers in the room. Plus, this looks like a pretty good setup that stays out of the way when needed. Although, I wonder if the ergonomics of this setup will catch up with the clinic.

How do you have the computers setup in your exam rooms? I’d love to hear what you’re doing or even see pictures of your exam room computer setup. Do you just use a tablet or laptop you carry around with you? Let’s see some more examples.

Eyes Wide Shut – January, 2014 Meaningful Use Stage 2 Readiness Reality Check

Posted on January 13, 2014 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a hardcore health data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, which she brings to her role as Dell Health’s Analytics Solutions Lead. She fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

Happy New Year?

As I begin the 2014 Meaningful Use measures readiness assessment and vendor cat-herding exercises, I’m reflecting on this portion of CMS’s Director of E-Health Standards and Services, Robert Tagalicod and the ONC’s Acting National Coordinator Jacob Reider’s statement regarding the Meaningful Use timeline modification: “The goal of this change is two-fold: first, to allow CMS and ONC to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2.” (Previously published on EMRandHIPAA.com.)

I call BS.

If the “goal” is a “successful implementation”, then CMS failed miserably by not addressing the START of the quarterly attestation period for Stage 2, which is still required in 2014. CMS and the ONC need more time to successfully implement the measures, and they are bureaucratic agencies that don’t directly deal with patient medical care. Why wasn’t the additional time required to truly succeed at this monumental task extended to the healthcare provider organizations? Because the agencies want to save face, and avoid litigation from early adopters who may be already beginning their 2014 attestation period amidst heroic back-breaking efforts?

Here’s a reality check for what a large IDN might be going through in early January, in preparation for the start of the 2014 quarterly attestation period. Assume this particular IDN’s hospitals’ fiscal year runs October-September, so you MUST begin your attestation period on July 1. You have 6 months.

As of December 31, 2013, only 4 of the 8 EMRs in your environment completed their 2014 CEHRT certification.

Each of those 4 EMRs has a different schedule to implement the upgrade to the certified edition, with staggered delivery dates from March to July. The hospital EMR is not scheduled to receive its certified-edition upgrade until April. You pray that THIS implementation is the exception to your extensive experience with EMR vendor target timelines extending 6-8 weeks beyond initial dates.

The EMR upgrades do not include the Direct module configuration, and the vendor’s Direct module resources are not available until 6-9 weeks after the baseline upgrade implementation – if they have knowledgeable resources, at all. Your hospital EMR vendor can’t articulate the technical infrastructure required to implement and support its own Direct module. Several vendors indicate that the Direct module configuration will have to be negotiated with a third-party. Your clinicians don’t know what Direct is. Your IT staff doesn’t know how to register with a HISP. Your EMR vendor doesn’t support a central Direct address directory or a lookup function, so you contemplate typing classes for your HIM and clinical staff.

The number of active patient problems requiring manual SNOMED remediation exceeds 60,000 records in your hospital EMR. You form a clinical committee to address, but they’re estimating it will take 6 months of review to complete. You’re contemplating de-activating all problems older than a certain date, which would whittle down the number and shorten the timeframe to complete – but would eliminate chronic conditions.

There are still nagging questions regarding CMS interpretation of the measures, so you ask for clarification, and you wait. And wait. And wait. The answers impact the business rules required for attestation reporting, and you know you need any help you can get in whittling down the denominator values. Do deceased patients count in the view/download/transmit denominator? If records access is prohibited by state/federal law, does that encounter count in the view/download/transmit denominator?

Consultant costs skyrocket as you struggle to find qualified SME resources to blaze a trail for your internal staff. Their 60-to-90-day assessments inevitably end with recommendations for “proof of concept” and “pilot” approaches to each of the 2014 measures, which don’t take into account the reality of the EMR upgrade timelines and the looming attestation start date. Following their recommendations would delay your attestation start by 9-12 months. So, your internal staff trudges forward without expert leadership, and you throw the latest PowerPoint deck from “Health IT Professionals-R-Us” on the pile.

Who needs testing, when you can go live with unproven technology the day it’s available in order to meet an arbitrary deadline? Healthcare.gov did it – look what a success that turned out to be!

But wait, this is real clinical data, generated by real-world clinical workflows, being used to treat real patients, by real healthcare providers. By refusing to address the start of the 2014 attestation period, CMS and the ONC are effectively using these patients and providers as lab rats.

I did not give permission to be part of this experiment.

Scanning Is a Feature of Healthcare IT and Will Be Forever

Posted on October 11, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

When I first started writing about EMR and EHR, I regularly discussed the idea of a paperless office. What I didn’t realize at the time and what has become incredibly clear to me now is that paper will play a part in every office Forever (which I translate to my lifetime). While paper will still come into an office, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a paperless office when it comes to the storage and retrieval of those files. The simple answer to the paper is the scanner.

A great example of this point was discussed in this post by The Nerdy Nurse called “Network Scanning Makes Electronic Medical Records Work.” She provides an interesting discussion about the various scanning challenges from home health nurses to a network scanner used by multiple nurses in a hospital setting.

The good people at HITECH Answers also wrote about “Scanning and Your EHR Implementation.” Just yesterday I got an email from someone talking about how they should approach their old paper charts. It’s an important discussion that we’re still going to have for a while to come. I’m still intrigued by the Thinning Paper Charts approach to scanning, but if I could afford it I’d absolutely outsource the scanning to an outside company. They do amazing work really fast. They even offer services like clinical data abstraction so you can really enhance the value of your scanned charts.

However, even if you outsource your old paper charts, you’ll still need a heavy duty scanner for ongoing paper that enters your office. For example, I have the Canon DR-C125 sitting next to my desk and it’s a scanner that can handle the scanning load of healthcare. You’ll want a high speed scanner like this one for your scanning. Don’t try to lean on an All-in-One scanner-printer-copier. It seems like an inexpensive alternative, but the quality just isn’t the same and after a few months of heavy scanning you’ll have to buy a new All-in-One after you burn it out. Those are just made for one off scanning as opposed to the scanning you have to do in healthcare.

David Harlow also covers an interesting HIPAA angle when it comes to scanners. In many cases, scanners don’t store any PHI on the scanner. However, in some cases they do and so you’ll want to be aware of this so that the PHI stored on the device is cleaned before you dispose of it.

Certainly many organizations are overwhelmed by meaningful use, ICD-10, HIPAA Omnibus, and changing reimbursement. However, things like buying the right scanner make all the difference when it comes to the long term happiness of your users.

Sponsored by Canon U.S.A., Inc.  Canon’s extensive scanner product line enables businesses worldwide to capture, store and distribute information.

EMR Market is Growing, But It’s Not What It Was

Posted on September 11, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

The EMR market is likely to grow at more than 7 percent per year through 2016, according to a new report.

The estimate comes from London-based research and advisory firm TechNavio. The company wrote in its analysis, “Global Hospital-based EMR Market 2012-2016,” that “demand for advanced health monitoring systems” and for cloud-computing services were major contributors to demand.

On the other hand, according to the company, implementation costs could be a limiting factor.

The TechNavio figure is actually a compound annual growth rate of 7.46 percent. That means substantial opportunity for the many companies referenced in the report, including Cerner Corp., Epic Systems Corp., AmazingCharts Inc. and NextGen Healthcare, to name a few.

Another research firm, Kalorama Information, in April reported that the EMR market reached nearly $21 billion in 2012, up 15 percent from the year before, driven by hospital upgrades and government incentives.

About 44 percent of U.S. hospitals had at least a basic EHR in 2012, up from 12 percent in 2009, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

In the United States, at least, future growth might require more resources and creativity to achieve. You might remember the recent post “The Golden Era of EHR Adoption is Over,” by Healthcare Scene’s John Lynn, positing that the low-hanging fruit for EMR vendors, the market of early adopters and the “early majority,” is gone, leaving a pool of harder-to-convince customers.

But the TechNavio report is broader, considering not only the Americas but also Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. That’s truly a mixed bag, as while health IT is at a preliminary stage in many developing markets, it’s highly advanced in countries such as Norway, Australia and the United Kingdom, where, according to the Commonwealth Fund, EMR adoption by primary-care physicians exceeds 90 percent.

When EMR initiatives get a firmer foothold in countries such as China, where cloud-based solutions could well prevail, growth rates for those areas might exceed — several times over — the overall figure predicted by TechNavio.

And in the United States, certain pockets, such as the rural hospital market, still present huge opportunity. Fewer than 35 percent of rural hospitals had at least a basic EMR in 2012, but the enthusiasm is clearly there, as that number was up from only 10 percent in 2010, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It looks like it’s still a great time to be an EMR vendor. But it’s not the same market that it was even a couple of years ago, and success in the new era might require looking at new markets and approaches.

Without This EMR Step, You Might Never Get It Right

Posted on August 29, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

It’s not hard to find physicians and nurses who say that far from improving health care, the EMRs they use are something to work around.

Billing problems, lost productivity and even diminished quality of care are common complaints, sometimes long after the implementation kinks should have been worked out. In some cases, doctors who bought into EMRs as a way to operate more effectively and efficiently have found themselves disappointed enough to look for hospital employment, try new practice models or even close their doors, as HealthcareScene.com founder John Lynn has written.

Often the problem lies deeper than the technology, according to a recent white paper from TechSolve, a Cincinnati-based consulting group. After all, an electronic overlay does little good when it serves only to automate bad processes.

TechSolve is promoting a process-mapping approach to EMR for hospitals through its Lean Healthcare Solutions unit. It’s part of a trend toward applying the efficiency techniques of Japanese manufacturers to EMRs and other aspects of health care.

Like Toyota and other pioneers of lean, health care providers should rely on line workers to help root out waste, according to TechSolve.

“While you may be inclined to dismiss negative comments as resistance to change, staff may be aware of design issues that the design team, PI facilitator, and vendor were not,” TechSolve consultants Sue Kozlowski and Alex Jones wrote.

They offered seven steps to ensure maximum benefit from an EMR, a few of which I’ll share. I suggest downloading the full paper for a complete view.

TechSolve recommends thinking about process improvement before getting started with an EMR. Of course, if it’s too late for that, the firm and others in the space are happy to step in later, as well.

Here’s what TechSolve advises:

  • Map your current processes. This can be done with help from your process improvement team or an outside group. In some cases, it’s best to assign a team to each service line.
  • Compare current and future states. Color-coding is one way to do this, highlighting visually for staff members how their work will change.
  • Prioritize issues that affect patient care and payment timing. An “issues list” can be created and then reviewed after “go live” to make sure problems have been corrected. Also, examine how well staff members are adhering to the new processes, asking questions such as, “Where are they using work-arounds, and where have they found new capabilities in the system?”
  • Process map again. This new snapshot is the baseline going forward. It can serve as a reference for staff members when they’re in doubt and as a training tool for new hires.

We’re all looking for technology that makes our lives easier right away. But when it comes to EMRs, there’s no true turnkey solution. Making a system pay off requires investments, particularly of time, well beyond the sticker price.

Under traditional reimbursement models, though, planning is not what brings in the revenue. It’s easy enough to see why hospital employment, with guarantees of a salary and IT assistance, is becoming a more and more attractive option for physicians who want to limit expenses and risk.

Hospitals, though, have no plan B. They’ll have to marry their IT to efficient processes or else.

Things Your EMR Will Never Do

Posted on August 15, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

EMRs can be powerful tools for building practice efficiency.

But they can’t do it all.

Ruth Sara Hart-Schneider, sales and marketing director for Cincinnati-based Salix, says health care providers are still paying too many people to move too much paper. Her firm helps them to fill the gaps left after even the most successful EMR implementation.
Ruth Sara Hart-Schneider is sales and marketing director for Salix
Salix specializes in workflow automation, business process outsourcing and litigation support. Health care makes up about 30 percent of its workload.

Hart-Schneider works with physician practices, hospitals and a variety of other health care clients, such as durable medical equipment firms and clinical research organizations. She deals with 26 EMR systems.

Note: If you catch her hanging out by your fax machine, don’t be alarmed. It’s part of her job.

Here’s what Hart-Schneider had to say:

Can you explain more about what your company does in health care IT?

We support health care companies in leveraging the electronic data they already have. We help them to avoid having redundant systems or people hand-filling forms or electronic systems generating paper systems. We work around the electronic systems in an office, like EMRs and practice management systems. Usually an office will have both, but there are all these other functions that have been left on the table.

What are some examples?

Most EMRs we deal with are not set up for prior authorization requests. And every state has its own forms for different programs — Medicaid HMOs, workers’ compensation. Particularly for practices dealing across state lines, it becomes cumbersome for the staff. EMR companies don’t want to program all these forms for all the states, and they change constantly anyway. That’s a sweet spot for us. Prescription monitoring is another one if the practice is giving many narcotics. Also, EMRs don’t interface with many of the tools the carriers have out there for eligibility, benefits and claims status. Some other areas are disability, return-to-work forms, immunization logs for pediatrics and certificates of medical necessity for things like wheelchairs and oxygen.

When practices invest in EMRs, do they realize how much they’ll still need to do on paper?

They’re trying to meet meaningful use. When they choose a system, they know what it will do. It’s not a tool to manage your office. Still, people get frustrated with how many repetitive tasks their employees have to do even after all this money has been spent. For example, a group had a pulmonary function testing machine that wouldn’t talk to the EMR. They would print the report and then walk over and scan it into the EMR. A lot of equipment is like that.

How do you identify the inefficiencies in a practice?

If you stand by the fax for 10 minutes and watch what comes through, you’ll have a pretty good idea. You can also look around at the stacks of paper. You can ask people what they’re behind on.

How do you help?

Salix will work with an organization to help them identify their biggest pain points and then customize a solution that will free up staff time and save them money. We look for the best tools for each application. We like FileBound, which has an ASP model product that meets all the HIPAA security requirements, has a very reasonable price point and allows unlimited users without user fees.

Among our services: We can help with the auto-population of forms, we can provide data-entry services for labs and test results that are faxed in and we can help provide interface solutions for equipment that’s not hooked to the EMR. For a surgery practice, as one example, we can help design and implement systems so that the manager can look at tomorrow’s schedule and ensure that all pre-certs have been completed.

How important is it to address these areas?

Most often, there are higher-level tasks that aren’t getting done because staff is bogged down in some very menial, basic and repetitive tasks. You don’t need your nurse spending time on data entry or filling out school forms.

Is it realistic for a practice to go completely paperless?

Yes, but not in the near future. You couldn’t do it yourself. Vendors and everyone else that you deal with would have to be paperless, too, and that’s not happening. Many of the nursing home and hospice operators I talk to say they’re not going electronic because they don’t have the money. I think some things will always come in on paper.

EMR & Patient Safety, Meaningful EHR Measures, and the Patient Portal “Switch”

Posted on January 20, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


What an important topic of discussion. In fact, it makes me want to look at writing a whole series of articles on the patient safety issues using an EMR and also the patient safety issues of not using an EMR. Much of it I’ll be covering in my EHR benefits series, but quite a different angle. Although, the ethics side of it could be really interested. I’m glad Dr. Wes is starting this discussion.


I keep wishing it was interoperability, but I do think we could go way too far when it comes to adding more measures and end up with measures that provide little to no value if we’re not careful.


I love that people think that implementing a patient portal is as easy as flipping a switch. I can have a full EMR at my fingertips in 2 minutes by signing up at one of the Free EHR, but that misses so many important parts of implementing an EMR. The same goes for a portal. It takes a little more thought to implement a patient portal than just flipping a switch.

The Fiscal Cliff of Primary Care

Posted on December 20, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Hello Health blog has a really interesting article up discussing what they called the Primary Care Fiscal Cliff. The thing I like most about the post is the data they provide on what’s happening with primary care doctors. Take for example this list of statistics:

  • Primary care practice income rose just $500 from 2008-2011
  • Operating expenses of a practice continues to rise each year
  • Primary care physicians can spend an average of 13 hours a week of uncompensated care worth over $30,000 in lost revenue a year
  • The cost of a traditional electronic health record can easily exceed $20,000 in the first year with a 5-year projected cost approaching $50,000 per physician

I’m not sure that the US government’s fiscal cliff has much relationship to the primary care doctor fiscal cliff (except for the possible Medicare cuts), but it’s very safe to say that primary care doctors are in a real financial predicament.

In the Hello Health post they suggested from their own research that practice finances and EHR are the two issues keeping primary care physicians up at night. I’m sure these findings won’t be a surprise to any primary care doctors. Plus, it’s worth noting that the finances of a primary care practice are tied to an EHR in many ways.

I have often questioned how much influence the government EHR incentive money has had on getting doctors to adopt EHR. Whenever I do, I usually get a response from a primary care doctor saying that they wouldn’t be implementing an EHR if it weren’t for the EHR incentive money and that they were depending on the EHR incentive money to help cover the new EHR expense.

In my recently started EHR benefit series I’m hoping to expand the thinking when it comes to EHR revenue implications. There are still tens of thousands of primary care doctors that need to implement an EHR or replace their existing EMR. Understanding the financial ties to EHR will help a practice ensure a more successful EHR implementation.

At the core of the question is whether EHR software is a financial benefit or a financial loss. The cop out answer to that question is that it depends on how you implement the EHR and which EHR you implement. I wish someone would take the time to study the top 20 EHR companies and evaluate how practices have done pre-EHR implementation and post EHR implementation. Plus, they’d need to take into account the cost of an EHR. That type of study would produce a lot of interesting EHR data.

My gut feeling having participated in numerous EHR implementations and heard from thousands of other EHR implementations is that the result is usually a wash. In most EHR implementations I don’t think there’s a net financial gain or loss. There are outliers on both sides of that spectrum, but I think for most it has some pros and some cons.

With that said, I think there are long term benefits to a practice that has an EHR. While the immediate financial returns may not come, I think that the EHR in a practice is going to be essential for many of the financial gains a practice wants to achieve in the future. The most obvious example is becoming part of an ACO. Can you really get the financial benefits of being in an ACO without an EHR? I think the answer will likely be no. You need the EHR data to obtain and report on the ACO improvements your practice achieves.