In an increasingly wired world the healthcare industry’s adoption of electronic
medical records (EMRs) has surprisingly lagged behind the technology-based communication
of other industries. An electronic medical record is also commonly referred to as
an electronic health record (EHR).
An EMR system can not only streamline your practice, it can also save you money
on your malpractice insurance.
As the name suggests, an EMR is simply a patient’s medical records stored and organized
in an electronic format, which can be accessed by networked computers for the purpose
of providing medical care. EMRs can contain a full range of medical information,
including prescription records, test results, treatment histories, progress reports
and X-rays. In addition to storing a patient’s medical history, EMRs facilitate
the ordering of medical tests, treatments and medications, while offering real-time
data and clinical guidelines as well as allergy and drug interactions warnings.
But recent studies
suggest that less than 10 percent of American hospitals and 16 percent of primary
care physicians currently employ EMR technologies. Physician reticence to adopt
EMRs is likely due to the data-entry time costs required to transfer from paper
to digital records and the estimated $44,000-per-physician investment in resources,
but case studies show the new systems pay for themselves within three years.
Make no mistake, EMRs are the inevitable next step forward in healthcare, shortening
patient wait times and lowering operating costs for physicians through improved
efficiency and reduced malpractice risk. In fact, President George W. Bush and his
administration established a national goal of assuring the majority of Americans
have electronic medical
records by the year 2014.
According to Chris Ferguson, President of EMR Experts (www.emrexperts.com), a leading provider of customized
EMR solutions for physicians, "The EMR industry is
now seeing unprecedented growth. We are seeing 100% growth every quarter of practices
converting from traditional paper medical record keeping to EMR. This increase can
be attributed to many factors, such as cost effective reliable systems now deployed
in the market, efficiencies gained at the practice level for many reasons like labor
cost, overhead storage of paper records, as well as a decrease in malpractice premiums."
Medicare to start offering incentives
As an encouragement for physicians to switch over to the benefits of EMRs, specifically
in regard e-prescribing, Medicare will start a new program to encourage physicians
to adopt e-prescribing systems, with incentive payments available beginning
in 2009 for those who meet the requirements of the program. Eligible professionals
will receive a 2 percent incentive payment in 2009 and 2010; a 1 percent incentive
payment in 2011 and 2012; and a one half percent incentive payment in 2013. Beginning
in 2012, eligible professionals who are not electronic prescribers will receive
a reduction in payment.
Benefits of Electronic Medical Records
Traditionally, physicians have spent a considerable amount of time with paper records
that are bulky and occupy costly space in their practice environment. Filing, retrieval
of files and the re-filing of paper records are labor-intensive methods of storing
patient information. And in a hospital setting, when a record is checked out for
one department, another department cannot access the chart. The impact of not having
immediate access to key information in emergency situations can be serious.
Traditional paper medical records are also difficult to search and near impossible
to employ when tracking, analyzing and/or charting voluminous clinical medical information
and processes. Due to HIPAA privacy guidelines,
they cannot be easily copied or saved off-site. However a physician’s orders and
the corresponding results can also be issued, saved and maintained much more efficiently
in a EMR system.
EMR systems maximize your productivity
EMR systems maximize physician productivity by intuitively organizing the massive
and complex nature of healthcare systems in one computer-based database, accessible
via the simple click of a button. By spending less time tracking charts, staff can
streamline provider and patient contact time. As a result, physicians may spend
more time with individual patients as well as increase the number of patients they
see in one day.
EMRs offer the potential benefit of increased revenues by allowing an increase
in services per visit and patient volume as well as providing fully documented coding
recommendations required by many insurance companies for reimbursement of services.
Perhaps the most attractive benefit of EMRs is the ability to lower physician risk
and reduce errors through medication alerts concerning drug interactions
and allergies, by facilitating communication among healthcare providers, by providing
computerized physician order entry to eliminate errors due to legibility issues
and by improving medical record documentation. Because EMR software incorporates
clinical-decision support, it can aid in diagnoses, alert the physician of prescription
drug interactions and suggest treatment plan recommendations. In the case of e-prescriptions,
the EMR automatically screens for drug interactions, dosage and patient-specific
medication factors. When a medication listed in an EMR matches a medication in an
FDA safety alert, patients taking that medication are flagged.
Save Money on your Malpractice Insurance
To borrow a phrase from the infomercial world .. but wait there's more! Recognizing
the risk-minimizing advantage of EMRs in regard to diagnosis and treatment, some
medical malpractice insurance companies are offering a premium credit of
anywhere between 2 and 5 percent. Each insurer’s EMR credit requirements vary slightly,
so check with your malpractice company or submit your free
malpractice insurance quote request today and see if you can get a better
rate on your med mal insurance.
CoverMD.com offers free quotes on medical malpractice insurance in every state.