While some physicians throughout the United States have decided to become meaningful users of electronic health records by 2011 when Medicare and Medicaid begin extra payments to meaningful users, many others remain undecided, said Dr. David Blumenthal, national health IT coordinator.
Last week, Blumenthal wrote on the Health IT Buzz Blog how almost 200,000 doctors already had adopted EHRs and are using them at a basic or sophisticated level. While using an EHR can be challenging at first, Blumenthal said his own experience had taught him that doing so had made him a better doctor. Citing a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Blumenthal said 90 percent of physicians who had decided to adopt EHR were happy with their decision.
“My EHR made me a better doctor,” Blumenthal wrote. “I really knew what was going on with my patients. I could answer their questions better and more accurately. I made better decisions. I felt more in control.”
For those who expressing concerns about difficulties with the transition from a paper-based system to a digital one, Blumenthal noted that physicians do not go into medicine because it is easy; they go through grueling training and face tough personal and clinical decisions throughout their professional lives.
“They constantly have to grow and learn to keep up with the science and practice of medicine,” Blumenthal wrote. “That’s what makes them the professionals they are. That’s what earns their patients’ and colleagues’ respect and admiration. That’s what gets them up in the morning knowing there’s nothing else they would rather be doing.”
The EHR is just another transition physicians are constantly called upon to make in the interest of their patients, their professional competence, and their professional self-esteem, he noted. Comparing it to the unavoidable arrival of the stethoscope in the early 1800s, he said the advent of the EHRc is inevitable. He also predicted that within a decade, paper records will be the exception.
While some healthcare providers may want to hold off and ease into the new system, Blumenthal said there are several reasons why they should not wait. The sooner physicians start using an EHR, the sooner they and their patients will realize its benefits. Physicians should also keep in mind the help offered by the federal government to pay for the transition with up to $44,000 in extra fees from Medicare, or $63,750 from Medicaid.
As a third reason for adopting an EHR sooner rather than later, Blumenthal talked about the demands for a “modern information system” in healthcare facilities. Anyone wanting to recruit young, talented physicians needs to realize how the next generation will expect and demand that their own medical home has an up-to-date information system, he noted.
“With two children in medical school, and a daughter-in-law who is an intern, I know young physicians will never settle for paper records,” Blumenthal wrote. “Wait, and the cream of the recruiting crop will pass you by.”