EMRs not enough

April 1, 2009

The incentives and penalties for adopting EMRs might not help the small physician practices

Obviously, the biggest healthcare down payment President Obama has made so far is the $150 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Based on reaction in the industry, it seems that the $19 billion health IT investment is producing the most discussion.

Avalere Health predicts small physician practices with little capital will be worse off financially should they take the offer and implement an EMR system because the incentives and penalties outlined in the Reinvestment Act won't offset their costs. Researchers forecast a $124,000 investment over five years with incentive payments only adding up to $44,000. Penalties would be assessed starting in 2015 and amount to $5,100 a year, which is probably less than the cost of system maintenance.

As for the administration's long-term payment on healthcare, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, believes reform legislation will be written before the August recess. Senate leaders are hoping for some action by July.

Within the forthcoming policies, further IT issues must be addressed. For example, even if EMRs were in place nationwide, there is still the bigger problem of setting standards for interoperability and clinical integration.

The American College of Physician Executives recently asked its members how they feel about technology. While more of them are using EMRs (64%, up from 33% in 2004), they still find them difficult to use and poorly integrated. They say physicians should be consulted more often and be more involved in the technology's design.

Are you listening, Wal-Mart?

Julie Miller is editor-in-chief of MANAGED HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVE. She can be reached at julie.miller@advanstar.com