The choice is no longer whether or not you will computerize; the only choice is when, as long as it is before 2014. In the State of the Union speech by President George Bush in January 2004, the President stated “by computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care.” In April 2004, he issued an executive order mandating computerization of health records by 2014. Congress passed legislation turning the edict into Federal law.
President Obama intensified the pressure with Electronic Health Records (EHR). He gave speeches lauding the benefits of EHR and with Congress enacted an economic stimulus bill that rewards those using certified EHR and punishes those who are not. If you have and use an EHR system by December 2010, and it is certified by the Certification Commission on Health Information Technology (CCHIT) then, beginning in January 2011, you will receive bonus payments from Medicare and/or Medicaid.
At this time, there are NO Chiropractic specific EHR systems that have CCHIT certification. There are some Chiropractic software companies actively working to obtain certification. You should expect to see Chiropractic specific CCHIT certified software in 2010. If you already have an EHR program, contact its producer. Find out what that company is doing. In the event that you do not have an EHR system, or the producer of your current program is not getting certified, start searching for those companies expecting certification. Ask what are the costs today and does that purchase include (for no charge) the upgrade to the certified EHR software. You may save thousands by purchasing EHR now from a company that will soon produce a certified EHR program.
The insurance industry placed requirements on health records, exceeding the time table set by the government. Tom Lee, CEO of Partners Health Care System in Massachusetts, reported that for doctors that did not implement EHR by January 2008, or commit to implementing EHR by January 2009, they are out of the Partners network. Other insurance programs are getting on this bandwagon. The best thing you can do is computerize today, and not wait until the government or insurance forces you.
Know the terminology of electronic health records. Recognize that different entities use the terms differently. We frequently use the terms of EHR, EMR, and ECR interchangeably. The insurance industry gives them separate meanings. In the December 2007 issue of Risk Review Online, Sharon Koob (the Healthcare Risk Consultant for Princeton Insurance) explained that EHR referred to the patient’s complete record, including personal data, clinical info, demographics, insurance material, phone logs, reminder messages, letters, reports and anything else found in a patient file. She notes that EHR spans all the records of doctor offices, labs, nursing and rehab facilities, all insurance companies and “any other part of the massively complex healthcare system”. By contrast, Ms. Koob identifies EMR or ECR as being only the clinical record.
EHR provides many benefits. James B. Couch, MD, Managing Partner and Chief Medical Officer of Patient Safety Solutions, LLC, noted in the December 2007 issue of Risk Review Online that “the healthcare industry is finally getting swept into the electronic information age” and that doctors “who want to continue practicing…must prepare themselves for the inevitable transition into this electronic information age.” He itemized some benefits of EHR to include:
• More thorough knowledge of the patient’s condition prior to making a diagnosis;
• Instant accessibility to test results and consultations, allowing for a faster and more accurate diagnosis;
• Documentation support for therapeutic decisions.
In addition to the items listed, EHR has many other benefits; EHR makes your office paperless, no one is wasting time in the filing cabinet. EHR enables your staff to be more productive with building your practice. Each file is always at your fingertips.
The mandate for Electronic Health Records, also referred to as EMR, EHR, or ECR, is very unusual for a government program because EHR gives us very great benefits including reduced expenses, saved time, greater staff productivity, and increased income. Paper filing is minimal, and in the not too distant future, even more paper will be eliminated when patient forms are completed by the patient using tablet computers. In other words, the sooner you implement full computerization of your health records, the better it will be for you.
Dr. Paul Bindell is a 1975 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, in practice in Rockaway, NJ since 1976. Dr. Bindell is a past Chairman of Public Relations for the Northern (NJ) Counties Chiropractic Society. In 1991 Dr. Bindell and his family began Life Systems Software so that the profession would have reliable computer programs based on real chiropractic practice. Dr. Bindell is available to speak to your group or organization and can be reached by email at [email protected], or you can call 1- 800-543-3001.