Local, State, Federal

Survey Reports Big Interest in EHR Adoption

James R. Morrow, MD, a physician at North Fulton Family Medicine in Alpharetta, Ga, led his 11-physician practice to save $1.25 million a year by implementing an electronic health record (EHR) from Allscripts.

In 2004, Morrow was named Physician IT Leader of the Year by the Healthcare Information and Management Syst zems Society for eliminating transcription and other costs associated with paper medical records. When news of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 came his way, Morrow applauded Washington’s action and urged his peers to follow suit.

“In one stroke, Congress has all but removed the biggest stumbling block to EHR adoption—cost,” Morrow said. “It’s time for doctors to stop complaining about the cost of an EHR and take the ball and run with it toward the goal of better medicine with better records and information-sharing across the health care team.”

A recent Allscripts survey indicates that physicians are ready to take the plunge. In fact, 98% of 1,888 health care professionals surveyed reported that they would take advantage of the incentives or are seriously considering the opportunity.

Don Caruso, MD, associate medical director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic in New Bedford, NH, also welcomed news of the stimulus. He hails from one of 10 physician groups in the country to serve as pilot sites for CMS’ first Pay-For-Quality program. Evaluating whether the use of electronic health records during treatment of chronic disease between April 2006 and March 2007 would result in better health outcomes, the clinic received the most performance payments from CMS of all the sites at nearly $6 million. Furthermore, the clinic was among four pilot groups that collectively earned $13.8 million in performance payments while saving Medicare $17.4 million, according to CMS.

“For our health care system to be all it can be, physicians need to be able to provide quality care at a consistently high level, and that cannot occur without an electronic health record,” said Caruso, who is also an Allscripts customer. “The same is true of providing more cost-effective care—you can’t get there without technology.”

Allscripts’ EHR allows Caruso and Morrow to automate common clinical tasks, such as documenting patient care, writing prescriptions, ordering lab tests, and viewing test results. Physicians are connected to the latest clinical information, as well as to other key stakeholders like pharmacies, labs, and patients.

The 2009 act provides $20 billion in health information technology funding, including $2 billion in discretionary funds and $18 billion for investments and incentives through Medicare and Medicaid to support the adoption of an interoperable health care IT system, such as an electronic health record. Those who do not adopt a certified EHR by 2014 will see their Medicare reimbursements reduced by up to 3%, starting in 2015.

Under the stimulus package, CMS will pay physicians between $44,000 and $64,000 over 5 years, beginning in 2011, for deploying and implementing a certified EHR.

“This is a significant and important down payment on modernizing our health system through information technology,” said David Merritt, project director of the Center for Health Transformation. “Many more physicians and health systems will soon have the most modern tools in their hands—and patients will receive better, safer, and more efficient care.”

—Elaine Sanchez