Health IT took a massive step forward when the then President George W. Bush passed an executive order in 2004 to establish a national coordinator. The vision of such a measure was to create a nationwide, secure interoperable network that would enable authorized users to access medical records of any patient, anytime, anywhere in the United States. When President Barack Obama took over the office, he knew that his healthcare plan to provide insurance to all Americans must be paired with a plan to control the cost and quality of healthcare services.
In 2009, the economic stimulus package allocated $25.9 billion to promote the adoption of electronic medical record system in hospitals and private medical practices. However, only half of American physicians and hospitals have adopted the basic EHR systems ( Electronic Health Records ) and only 20 percent of them use Health IT software. The government funds allocated to hospitals to use electronic medical records are now used up and the future of doctors and hospitals that are still using paper medical records of is a delicate matter of discussion. The following three points review why physicians will be forced to use EHRs in the future:
Vendor Marketing: EHR vendors target large health care organizations to increase profit margins. These organizations have multiple users and thus vendors need not incur huge marketing expenditure. This is a reason why physicians who use EHRs are affiliated to large hospitals or practice in populated urban clinics. Most EHR vendors have already sold EMR solutions to these hospitals and now their marketing strategy is focused on small medical practices and it is likely that the EMR adoption rates will increase.
Mergers & Acquisitions in Health Care: The shift to value-based payment models will lead to the formation of new health care organizations. Small medical practices and individual physician offices are likely to merge with huge accountable health care organization or will be acquired by hospitals with multiple users. With these changes, physicians will be forced to use health care technologies that are being used by large organizations. Though EMR may not be of great value for individual practice, it will become a necessity when such practices merge with large organizations. With the absence of electronic medical record systems, it will be difficult, or rather impossible, for larger health care organizations to manage population risk, coordinate patient care and submit insurance claims efficiently.
Data Analytics Tools: When a physician uses a basic EHR, patient details such as demographics, medical problems and medications can be recorded in addition to prescriptions and clinical notes. However, with a basic HER, a physician cannot send prescriptions to a pharmacy electronically. The physician can view imaging and laboratory result only if the EMR is interoperable with the EHR of the relevant imaging centre or laboratory. Every defined functionality of a basic electronic health records system is the same as using a detailed Excel spreadsheet. This is one of the reasons why individual physicians are not using EHR systems, ignoring even the free ones.
With advanced artificial intelligence and decision support systems, patient data once collected for less significant reasons is now of great importance to create meaningful details that make the lives of doctors easier. The Health Care industry is not stepping out of the data collection period and stepping into the data analysis era for tangible benefits. Doctors can now use analytics tools based on their EMR data to treat patients and retrieve data from multiple locations and other hospitals.
As a consequence of the above, adopting implementing electronic health records systems is the way to go.