Cost, Resources Hamper Health IT Adoption for Small Practices

Barriers such as cost and the lack of technical resources persist for health care providers in small practices that are seeking to adopt electronic health records and participate in the meaningful use program, Government Health IT reports.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

On Thursday, physicians and health IT experts from the public and private sectors spoke at a hearing of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.

Solo Practitioner Comments

Sasha Kramer -- a solo practitioner dermatologist in Olympia, Wash. -- said small physician practices face financial challenges when trying to adopt EHR systems.

She noted that some health care providers encounter difficulty trying to negotiate terms with a vendor because of limited market share (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 6/2).

She told the panel that she purchased an EHR system two years ago but that her vendor has since been acquired by another company that does not support the system (DoBias, National Journal, 6/2). She has since installed another system, and the costs associated with the implementing the two systems has reached $73,000 (Daly, Modern Physician, 6/2). Kramer also said her patient volume fell by 75% and revenues decreased as she learned to use the first EHR system.

Kramer urged legislators to delay financial penalties that would affect those who do not become meaningful users of health IT.

Vendor CEO Comments

Andrew Slavitt -- CEO of health IT company OptumInsight -- said that the meaningful use incentive payments will not be enough to offset lost productivity (Government Health IT, 6/2).

Slavitt said "the greatest barrier [to health IT adoption] is that the decision support and productivity-enhancing capabilities ... are not driving the purchase and design of technology." Instead, compliance reporting criteria necessary to demonstrate meaningful use are at the forefront, according to Slavitt.

He added, "As long as meaningful use is the priority, improving user-friendly and productivity capabilities of EHRs will suffer" (Goedert, Health Data Management, 6/2).

Mostashari Chimes In

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari acknowledged that implementing health IT is a "challenging process" (National Journal, 6/2).

Mostashari said, "I make no bones about the transformation of workflows and processes and the difficulties that many practices, especially smaller practices, will face as they make this difficult transition" (Government Health IT, 6/2).

However, he added that health IT adoption "will not only lead to improved patient care and coordinated care, but also help those practices succeed over the long run" (National Journal, 6/2).


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