Small doctor’s offices across America are accustomed to doing business in a certain way.
When a patient checks in, the administrative staff pulls out a file folder containing a medical history, a record of doctor’s visits, test results, and physician’s scrawl jotted down about the patient’s history.
When the doctor begins his or her consultation, it’s easy for them to thumb through the pages and get up to speed on your medical history.
But small offices are under increasing pressure to scan these files and convert them to electronic medical records (EMRs) and make paper files a thing of the past.
Despite nearly $17 billion in economic stimulus money that is dedicated to medical records scanning, many small practices were reluctant to make the change.
Here are some of the objections of those practices that are dragging their feet.
Electronic Medical Records Won’t Provide Significant Changes to Care
Family practitioners typically enjoy close relationships with their patients, built over years of routine health issues.
“I don’t want to sit in front of a patient looking into a laptop,” says one Denver doctor. “I’d rather look into the patients’ eyes”
While he acknowledges some benefits to all of the patient data being available on screen, there isn’t a great deal of information sharing going on.
Each hospital system uses a different EMR system, and there isn’t a standardized format that solves the communication problems between hospitals, physicians and labs.
”We tend to print out the data and store it in a paper file. For me, there is something intuitive about paper chart and prescription pad” the doctor adds.
It’s Difficult to Select an EMR provider
Most medical practices are run by doctors, nurses, and a small administrative staff that is focused on client care and billing.
They don’t have a technical support staff to select or maintain and EMR system.
There are more than 300 EMR vendors in the marketplace right now, and it’s difficult for a small medical practice to determine which companies are the industry leaders, and which vendors might go out of business in the first five years of implementation.
Rather than make a “wrong” decision, small practices often prefer to stay with the status quo.
High Implementation Costs
In an era where small practices are fighting for survival, the cost associated with converting to an Electronic Medical Record system is significant.
According to a 2009 study produced by Avalere Health, a government sponsored research company, it will cost the average small practice $125,000 to $150,000. And this is only the direct costs of hiring a scanning service and purchasing the EMR system.
They did not include the offices time to prepare the documents for scanning or review them once converted.
The government has offered many incentives to offset the cost, but Avalere researches say that at best, these incentives would add up to only $44,000 an office.
Many doctors are concerned about maintaining the privacy of their patients’ data. With an EMR, files are often stored in off-site databanks, commonly called the cloud.
Because of the portability of electronic records, a single breach at a large EMR holder could expose a large number of people’s records.
It is not just a loss of privacy but they are now exposed to identity theft, social stigma, and even increases in your insurance premiums.