Not All Meaningful Use EMRs Are Created Equal

I’ve written before about the economic challenges facing physicians—in particular, the problem of stagnant or declining reimbursement rates. With no permanent fix to the SGR formula in sight, physicians are concerned about overhead, productivity, and patient mix. To maximize the value of their time and to increase—or at least maintain—their income if reimbursement rates fall to an unacceptable level, some physicians are considering dropping out of Medicare or limiting the number of Medicare patients they see.

As another means of increasing their income, many physicians are now also re-evaluating their participation in the EHR incentives program. Specialists, many of whom who had previously dismissed participation because they thought it would require adding primary-care workflows to their practice, are now giving the program a second look—in light of Dr. Blumenthal’s encouraging comments about the applicability and excludability of meaningful use requirements for specialists. (See “Just What the Doctor Ordered.”)

However, demonstrating meaningful use will still demand additional work, and certified—or to-be-certified—EMRs are not alike in how they facilitate doing this. It is critical for physicians to understand and evaluate the differences among EMRs in terms of how they deliver meaningful use capability and the impact on the time it takes to meet the requirements with each. Here are a few suggestions of what to look for in assessing the value of different solutions:

  • How easy is it to enter the required data? (This is particularly important as requirements become more demanding in future stages of the program.)
  • What changes will you have to make to the way you see patients?
  • How will you document the care you provide?
  • Does the system effectively allow delegation of tasks to staff members to minimize the time physicians must spend doing data entry?
  • Does the vendor’s software platform enable keeping up with evolving requirements?

The most valuable resource a physician has is his/her time. The software physicians select will have a significant impact on how they use that time.

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