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Reasons Physicians Are Hesitant To Adopt EHR

Whether you call it EHR (electronic health records) or EMR (electronic medical records), hospitals and physicians have been strongly encouraged to go that route. Physicians have been extremely hesitant; as of October only 20% of physicians have registered with the government's "meaningful use" programs. No matter how positive a spin the government puts on it, that's fairly pathetic considering how long this technology has been out there.

This begs the question as to what's going on with physicians. Why are they so reluctant to embrace this technology? And is there any way to get them on board? Let's take a look.

One reason physicians give for not adopting EHR principles is cost. Not all physicians are good business people, but they recognize when money might have to come out of their pockets for something they're unsure of. In the Rochester, NY area, one hospital in particular, Strong Memorial (University of Rochester Medical Center), has gotten around that by helping to pay for access for more than 4,000 area physicians to be a part of their network. This has encouraged other hospitals in the Rochester area, as well as prompting 3 hospitals in the Syracuse area to pool their resources together to get many of their local physicians onto their electronic networks.

Another reason is that many physicians aren't as technically advanced as one might imagine. It's often assumed that young physicians would be more computer savvy than their older counterparts but this turns out not to be true. So, as hard as it already is to get physicians in some communities to come into the hospital to complete records so accounts can be coded and billed, it becomes more problematic when physicians aren't comfortable and thus delay things even further.

A third reason is worries about privacy and access. This is a very valid worry for more than one reason. The federal government, or the panel they've created to look into electronic issues, has yet to come up with a standard encryption method that everyone can use. Also, there have been major breaches of privacy for one reason or another, especially when vendors from other countries have threatened to release information as a way of making sure they get payment. Even with the caveat that health care for patients that travel or live in other areas of the country for a period of time might have better health care overall if out of area physicians can access their information, many physicians are hesitant to allow outsiders to see their records for fear of things like malpractice claims.

One last reason might be the standard of EHR's "meaningful use" clause. Although the standards are there to protect physicians that sign up, they read like something to penalize physicians if the technology is used improperly:

  • The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing.
  • The use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care.
  • The use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.
At some point all of these issues will have to be overcome to get the majority of physicians to adopt EHR within their offices. The problem is obviously in not communicating things properly. The federal government is going to have to find better ways of getting their message through if they want EHR use to become a standard.

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