2015: The Future of IT In Family Practices
Posted: Mar 02, 2010
FALLS CHURCH, VA – A new report predicts that by 2019, 90 percent of physician practices are expected to be implementing IT.

The report, a CSC publication titled “US Heath Care in the Year 2015,” has published findings on what can be expected from care providers and the role of healthcare information technology in the next five years.

Today, the percentage of healthcare providers using fully functional IT systems is low, according to the report. Physician practices face large hurdles with IT implementation ranging from upfront costs to inadequate post-deployment technology support. In addition, providers are trying to lower the cost to the individual patient.

“The first problem is a large amount of paper charts into the solution,” said Roger Singh, MD, at New England Family Health, a Framingham, Mass.-based practice.

“Scanning the records into the EMR is a huge undertaking,” he said. “Another problem is having someone at the practice being technology savvy. Have one person dedicated driving the implementation of the IT project is going to be a challenge. For providers, IT helps assist doctors and eliminate errors. For example, we had an emergency patient arrive and by the time the ambulance brought the patient to our facility we had all their information ready so we can be prepared.”

The New England Family Health practice has reported positive results from using IT, according to Singh.

“It has tremendously changed our practice,” said Singh. “With IT, everyday I log in to the system and check eligibility of medical insurance. By 9 a.m. I have a complete idea of what each patient has for insurance.”

“IT has helped tremendously. We have several systems in place to serve our needs. IT has changed the way we have practiced medicine and will help reform with widespread adoption.”

New England Family Health is one of the few practices so far to use a fully functioning electronic health record.

The CSC report indicates that most physician practices still rely on paper records. Only about 4 percent of U.S. physician practices and 1.5 percent of hospitals use a fully functioning EHR.

But using IT solutions isn’t foreign to practices , the report notes. Automated billing systems have been in operation at many practices for the past 30 years.

“On one side providers are trying to help reduce missed payments,” said Walt Zywiak, principal researcher at CSC and co-author of the report. “Providers are also looking for redundancies in providing care. With the use of IT, payers are trying to remind providers to include documentation to ensure payment and to also remind providers that certain patients may not be covered. ”

The stimulus bill has allocated $36 billion in IT funding under the HITECH Act. These funds are to be released periodically to those who demonstrate “meaningful use.” Once approved, the money is expected to reduce the financial impact that these costly implementations will have on providers. Singh warns that it’s the underlying costs that could be the most detrimental.

“Currently the amount is about enough. However, there are a lot of other costs that the practice incurs on account of time and support. If the physicians have to purchase everything upfront, then the funding may not be enough,” he said.

“The HITECH act is a great step forward for IT adoption, but the systems are still exceptionally hard to implement,” said Jordan Battani, principal researcher for CSC and co-author of the report.

The number is still small for physician practices that employ the basics of an EHR, but there is a high expectation for the next five years.

“We are seeing about 40 percent adoption rate for hospitals and physicians by 2015,” Zywiak said. “By 2019, 90 percent of physician practices are expected to be implementing IT. The small practices face a big challenge, though the federal government is establishing regional centers to help physician practices convert from paper to digital records.”

“There is nothing that suggests over the next 10 years that we should wait to get started,” Battani said. “If organizations don’t start now, it’s hard to see how they are going to catch up.”

Source: Healthcare IT News

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