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Physician Engagement Vital to EMR Implementation

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, April 14, 2011

The physician relationship with electronic medical records continues to evolve. The hospital system was so concerned with ensuring that physicians were hooked up to the system, that the hospital neglected one of its most crucial elements, the computer system. "We should have refurbished all the computers on the floor. It wasn't as operational as it should have been," Eastham says.

Eastham's early experience is reflected by physician concerns elsewhere. The Medical Group Management Association released findings this month that illustrate some of the obstacles for physicians in moving forward with EMRs or EHR (electronic health records). The MGMA survey includes data related to physicians' own productivity as well as participation in the government's meaningful use incentives and overall costs.

While most (80.1%) medical practices surveyed who already adopted electronic medical records said they intend to participate in the meaningful use incentives available through the HITECH Act, only 13.6% indicated they are able to meet the 15 core criteria for eligibility to receive incentive payments. Interest in qualifying for EHR incentives was also strong among the respondents who now use paper medical records, with 28.8 % indicating they were in the process of selecting an EHR system, according to MGMA.

Most electronic medical record owners – 72% - said they are satisfied with their overall systems. They were split over their ability to increase physician productivity: 26% reported that productivity had increased; 20.6% indicated it had decreased, with 42.9% reporting there was no change in productivity after launching an EHR system.

About 38.4% of electronic medical record users said total practice operating costs increased, while 25.9% say the costs decreased; 25.7% reported no change.

The government's "EHR incentive program seeks to address implementation costs, a critical barrier to medical groups' adoption of EHRs," MGMA President and CEO William F. Jessee, MD said in a statement, but it is "clear that groups face significant optimization challenges."

 "We are hopeful that as the future stages of the incentive program are developed, the government will take into account the difficulties medical groups currently face in meeting the meaningful use requirements," Jessee said.

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