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Many Small Practice Physicians Putting off Meaningful Use Guidelines

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 4, 2010

Instead, Speckart says, "The money it will save benefits the medical management companies and insurance companies and the government."

Joseph Heyman, a solo practitioner in Amesbury, NH, and a member of the American Medical Association board of trustees, understands concerns of physicians, such as Speckart. He adopted EMR in 2001, and now reaps the benefits. For starters, he has more room in his office because he doesn't need storage space for paper charts and says he now spends more time with his patients.

But, he acknowledges, "Many physicians are worried. They don't know where to start. It's not an easy thing to switch to, especially if there's workflow interference."

Like the AAFP, the AMA intends to issue a letter to the federal government asking for changes in the guidelines and timelines for "meaningful use" compliance.

"We're concerned about how quickly people are going to be required to do some of these things. And we're concerned about measurement reporting for specialties that don't have measures," he says.

For example, Heyman says, currently the meaningful use guidelines call for compliance in stages. "But we think that there should be some percentage of success in one stage before you more onto the next stage."

And of course there are very few hospitals that are offering bridges to physician practices today, which is a goal of EMRs. "That's a major issue. They have to have a vehicle to send the information through to the hospital or to another physician.

He says the AMA is working with Compuware Covisint, a medical record platform and exchange developer, to offer basic EMR service to AMA members, with upgrades that will cost varying amounts. "The AMA is intent upon providing solutions for its members, which will make it possible for members to do this in the easiest way possible," Heyman says.

For Speckart, there is one other major concern: The loss of the precious human connection with patients.

"You'll get patients who enjoy the fact that you have access to electronic records. But then there's the patient who wants to talk with you about the really grave issues that are affecting him and his family—and there you are pounding away at the computer."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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