Payment Reform and EHR Adoption

Posted on June 9, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In a recent comment by Bobby Gladd (check out his REC Blog), he makes a really interesting connection between the need for healthcare payment reform and EHR adoption. Here’s his comment:

I would just observe that, absent significant payment reform (I won’t be holding my breath), there’s a very real problematic barrier to effective EHR use if we don’t change the basic paradigm. For example, fundamental to the concept of the “patient-centered medical home” trial initiatives now getting underway is the argument that primary care docs should properly be seeing no more than 8-10 patients per day (e.g., think about the typical hour attorney consult visit), that the customary 25-30 pts/day is driven by the need to bill, to keep the doors open; that roughly half of outpatient visits are of marginal to nil clinical value.

I and one of my REC colleagues did a clinic assessment visit the other day. We interviewed 4 docs, one of whom was a severe Dr. NO!” on the topic of HIT. His beef was basically a “productivity loss” complaint, i.e. that seeing mostly older, complex problem list pts (he’s Internal Med) made it nigh impossible to effectively chart electronically in within the scheduling constraint.

Now, perhaps with a lighter, more rational daily patient load (and more extensive EHR training) he might come around and truly “adopt.”

I consulted with an attorney a couple of years ago regarding legal guardianship over my dementia-addled (now late) Dad. The initial hour cost me $300. The entire deal ended up costing about $4,000.

A physician, however, is supposed to take in myriad data and make a comparably expert decision in 15-30 minutes — and hope he/she can eventually get reimbursed a relative pittance.

It’s crazy.

So, OK, where are we? We’re facing a current and projected shortage of perhaps 40-50,000 primary care docs, and under PCMH theory we propose to cut their pt volumes in HALF ore more so they can provide better care? All while bringing tens of millions of the previously uninsured into the (non-ER) system under Obamacare reform.


I don’t have a good answer for the skeptical docs who argue that the EMR gold rush is more about billing imperatives and vendor welfare, that the docs’ pt care-analytic needs are a distant 3rd at best.

It’s a vexing circumstance.

My only comment to the “productivity loss” complaint and the EMR gold rush that he refers to at the end is…
Maybe they’re looking at the wrong EMRs. Unfortunately, the EMR stimulus does promote mostly the wrong EMR vendors. That’s why the EMR selection process is so important.