EMRs are widely seen as a positive change in the healthcare industry. Despite this fact, physicians and hospitals are very reluctant to move into the information age. An article on the Harvard School of Public Health website acknowledges the vast benefits EMRs can provide to the US healthcare system, but points out three main barriers to adoption: culture, costs, and confusion.

EMRs have the ability to “stem skyrocketing health care costs,” which amounted to $2.3 trillion in 2007. In addition to saving money, EMRs can make our healthcare “safer, more efficient, and more cost effective,” according to the article. Research shows several ways EMRs can help your bottom line. First, EMRs can lower your operating expenses by streamlining workflows and letting you operate with fewer staff members, should that be necessary. Second, EMRs can help you eliminate the expense of managing paper. Third, most EMRs offer improved documentation, which lets you legitimately code higher levels for your encounters. Finally, EMRs can help you eliminate billing errors, which can cost you time and money to fix.

Despite all of these benefits, the article reports that “as few as 4% of physicians today use EHRs.” Hospitals similarly lag in EMR implementation. The article cites three reasons why physicians are so slow to adopt EMRs: culture, costs, and confusion.

Culture is tough to change. Physicians usually prefer writing on paper. Many physicians are not computer savvy, and are uncomfortable using them in front of patients. Furthermore, news of security breaches related to electronic patient information has made many physicians wary of privacy concerns and HIPAA violations. Physicians fail to realize that computer systems are usually well protected, and that anyone can walk up to a paper chart and read protected information, including their janitor.

Costs are perhaps the biggest obstacle, especially for small practices. In addition to the purchase price, revenue temporarily decreases while physicians come up to speed on the new system. The biggest mistake physicians make is focusing on the system’s cost, instead of how much additional revenue it can generate. Good systems usually pay for themselves within one or two years.

Confusion stems from hundreds of vendors and systems on the market. Many physicians have a difficult time figuring out which EMR is best for them. While any system will require some changes and training, customized systems that work according to the physician’s specifications can offer the highest returns and lowest training costs.

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Ryan Ricks
Security Officer