Physician EHR Productivity: Vital to Meet Spike in Demand for Care

Half of the physician group practices recently surveyed expected to buy an EHR system within the next 2 years. In the rush to purchase, however, it is imperative that physicians take the time to carefully assess how each of the EHRs they are considering will impact their productivity. Productivity has always been a major concern in EHR adoption, but demographics and financial factors now conspire to make it increasingly critical. Physicians can no longer afford even the slightest decrease in productivity. Consider the following projections that affect specialists:

  • The demand for joint replacement surgery will soon outstrip the supply of orthopaedic surgeons available to provide it, according to studies presented to AAOS. This is partly the result of an aging population with increasing rates of obesity and arthritis, but the growing demand will also come from a younger population. A full 50% of joint replacements will be sought by people under 65—the physically active baby boomer generation with a high level of physical activity. Not only will first-time joint replacements increase astronomically (rising 673% to 3.48 million knee replacements, and 174% to 572,000 hip replacements by 2030), but the demand for revision joint replacements, (i.e., repair or replacement of artificial joints) will also increase—doubling by 2015.
  • The situation is similar for ophthalmologists. Higher life expectancy will create a demand for 30 million cataract surgeries by 2020. Combined with the downward pressure on Medicare reimbursement rates that will lead some ophthalmologists to limit their practices to medical ophthalmology, the result will be a greater caseload for the remaining surgeons—but these physicians will need a high-volume, highly productive practice to remain financially viable.
  • Dermatologists will see a two- to three-fold increase in skin cancer patients as the population ages, and the demands for their medical services will grow rapidly. Not only will dermatologists be called upon to perform more surgical procedures in their offices, but increased awareness will lead to a higher demand for screening and preventive-care services.

Physician productivity will be critical in the office as well as the operating room, since the number of surgeries performed is directly proportional to the number of office visits conducted. A physician-focused, specialist-oriented, efficient EHR will be key to a physician’s ability to meet the increased demands, satisfy patient needs, and run a financially successful practice. Given the above statistics, it would be fiscally and socially irresponsible to implement an EHR that negatively impacts physician productivity. Now, more than ever, productivity is king.

Make It Happen!

The message is clear—physicians are concerned that their interests are being ignored, and they want their voices heard.

SRS is making that happen. We hear the voice of the physician and we will be broadcasting it to President Obama, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Dr. David Blumenthal, the HIT Policy Committee, the HIT Standards Committee, and leading industry blogs.

Following last week’s post, entitled “The Silent Majority is Being Heard – Let’s Be Louder,” we invited SRS clients and non-clients alike to let us represent their voices in Washington. The response from physicians and practice administrators has been tremendous—not only have we already received an unprecedented number of signatures to our letter to government officials, but we are being deluged with individual comments to be forwarded along with the letter…and they are still pouring in.

There is still time to join the campaign:

  • Sign our letter and/or add your own comments.
    Click below to read and then sign:

SRS Client Petition Non-Client Petition

  • Share this with your colleagues—physicians and practice administrators—and encourage them to let us speak for them.

Whether your practice is using SRS, has another EMR, or is still on paper charts, this is about you. Will you be able to meet the increasingly stringent “meaningful use” requirements currently under consideration by the government? The following are just a few of the voices that your peers have already asked us to share with Washington:

  • “We support efforts to reduce the cost of healthcare without reducing quality, and we recognize the value of a computer-based health record for quickly sharing patient information with other providers and avoiding duplication of services. However, the methodology for doing so should not be so burdensome as to change how a physician practices medicine, particularly if it interferes with patient-doctor interaction.”
  • “We have implemented an EMR system in our practice and are leaders in our area in implementation of new technology. However, despite numerous attempts, we have failed to find an EHR system for entering clinic notes and orders that improves efficiency. Instead we have found it only makes us more inefficient, less productive, and more frustrated. The right technology is not here yet. We cannot be forced to implement a flawed system.”
  • “I am a primary care doctor. Point-and-click does not work for us either. The vast array of problems that we handle requires a more flexible way to document a visit. We handle usually 3 different issues on average per visit. Point-and-click falls apart if there is more than one chief complaint or if the patient tells us something that has not been considered by the point-and-click software. The documentation is forced to become less accurate. There is also an impact on the relationship with the patient since the doctor spends more eye contact with computer rather than the patient. I am not a doctor who is afraid of technology. I have a degree from M.I.T. in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for years before changing careers. If point-and-click EMRs were useful, my practice would have had it years ago. Electronic prescribing has benefits and we have been doing that for years. We have a hybrid system that we currently use and will add other features when it makes sense. I do not believe we will ever use a point-and-click system even with incentives.”

The AMA is expressing the same concerns that we have been voicing—they formally came out against the planned penalties in the federal stimulus plan at their annual meeting this month.

Please add your own voice now, and let us make sure that you are heard.