2009 is upon us, and it is a time for new beginnings. Many people view January as a time to start over with a fresh take on life. This year we have a new congress and a new administration in the White House. Obama is pushing for advances in health care IT, as we know.
Obama’s economic stimulus package hits the House floor today. One of the line items in the bill includes $20 billion for health IT. The goal is to create jobs through pushing computers into doctors’ offices. Currently only about 17% of all physicians use computers or an electronic medical record in their offices.
Using computers in medical practices requires more than just hardware. Physicians will also need software, training, networking infrastructure, and installation. Analysts predict this plan would create about 200,000 new jobs to successfully implement the new program.
The devil however, is in the details. Those details are somewhat murky at this time, but we can assume the plan will call for standard hardware and software for every office. Dell computers running Windows Vista might be a likely choice, for instance.
If you do not already use an EMR in your practice, you may soon be required by law to adopt one. The stimulus package means well, but it could require physicians to purchase a certain brand of computer, certain software, and most likely an electronic medical record that meets government-defined criteria. You may also need to hire more staff to help support the new system. Although the federal government will fund the program, it is unlikely that physicians will not have to pay for some things.
Do not wait until Washington forces your hand. If you don’t currently use an EMR, now is the time to start shopping. Implementing an EMR is a big decision. You want to have plenty of time to find a system that meets your requirements and fits with your budget. The last thing you want is to be forced into a system you have no control over.