Physicians seek to take advantage of $17.2 billion in stimulus money while switching to digital record-keeping.
Peter Naismith called his physician in his Akron office thirty-seven times during a five-day span to retrieve his medical records. “I needed them to get an MRI,” the 53-year-old Naismith asserts. “The receptionist kept putting me off because my doctor still has paper files,” he says, “It’s my contention that they couldn’t find them. I suspect that my records were lost somewhere in their office.” Naismith works as a police officer and is familiar with electronic record-keeping. “All of our criminal files are computerized and easy to find. Why couldn’t they have done that with my medical records? I told my doctor to get rid of the paper files and he just tried to laugh it off. I wasn’t in the mood for laughing as I might have a tumor, and without my records, the hospital won’t do the MRI.”
While Naismith’s predicament isn’t that unusual, fortunately it’s becoming less common. A dramatic transition to EMR software packages is already occurring in physician’s offices all across America in anticipation of the U.S. Congress spending $17.2 billion in stimulus monies devoted to the now mandated move to paperless.
Naismith’s physician still scribbles prescriptions on tiny scrip sheets that can easily get lost and are difficult to read because, according to Naismith, “The guy writes like a first-grader who needs to get his knuckles rapped.” Other patients unwilling to be quoted publicly mention forgetting to tell the doctor about past conditions and therefore getting the wrong medication, or filling out medical forms until their fingers ache. But as the ghost of the Christmas future once said pointedly in the pages of A Christmas Carol — “It doesn’t have to be this way, my dear Mr. Scrooge.” Indubitably it doesn’t. Even a recent survey published in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that doctors who control patient management electronically attest that such record-keeping helps improve the quality and the timeliness of care. Besides improving care, going paperless also reduces errors and is playing an increasing role in cost containment – the very object of Obama’s health care reform in the first place. But there’s also a financial incentive. According to the mandate now in place, physicians in compliance by January 1, 2011 (well before the 2014 cut-off date) are eligible for reimbursement for purchases of EMR software packages if they purchase a federally certified package, and can establish 80% usage in their practices. Considering that there’s a three to six month learning curve in the transition (unless the physician is also a computer whiz) the rush to buy compliant packages is already on. The digital world of record-keeping beckons.
David York is with Fox Meadows, a provider of electronic medical records software, EMR Software, and medical billing software. To learn more about electronic medical records, emr software, medical billing software visit Foxmeadows.com.