“Waiting Out” EHR… Five Ways You’ll Suffer

A recent report from Deloitte covering EHR adoption by physicians put the number of physicians currently without an EHR at about 1/3, with about 1/2 of those with no current plans for implementing an EHR.

The smaller the practice, the less likely that EHR is in place: while the adoption rate is 82% of larger practices, it is only 61% of 2-9 physician practices, and 31% for solo practitioners.  The report also found variations among physicians by age, the older the physician the less likely to have an EHR.  While the absolute percentages are of interest, the overall trends aren’t surprising.

So, what’s ahead for those who won’t be adopting an EHR?  Certainly there are some older physicians who will “finish their career on paper” and continue for a couple of years as they have been.  But for those who haven’t adopted EHR so far, the future is more clouded.  This is due not only to evolution of EHR’s, but other changes ranging from new technologies to the health care system itself.

So, here’s a list of five ways you’ll suffer by trying to “wait out” EHR:

1) The Facebook effect: my daughter hates Facebook, but since  her friends make all their social plans through Facebook, she feels like she has to use it.  If you don’t have an EHR, all your referral partners who do will find it just that much harder to provide and receive referrals from you, making it more likely they’ll refer to others.

2) The “Digital Haystack”: mobile devices, especially smartphones, are quickly being equipped with sensors and apps that will enable sending large amounts or even continuous data on health status.  Receiving and using this data will be impractical without an EHR.  With hundreds of millions of smartphones sold that typically are replaced about every two years, the pace of this revolution will outstrip the introduction of previous new technologies.

3) Patient Dis-engagement: “Patient engagement” is the current buzzword for those promoting getting patients more involved in their healthcare.  As immediate, online access to health information and services rapidly becomes the norm, not having an EHR leaves you without the means to provide that.  Patients will not only prefer to use these services, they’ll ignore those who don’t provide them.

4) More Pain, Less Gain:  Sure, the federal EHR incentive programs are time-limited and will be going away.  But there are also payment penalties beginning in 2015 for Medicare for those not using EHR’s.

5) You Can’t Get There From Here: It may not initially be stated as such, but the reports, audits, and research enabled by having all patients’ clinical information in electronic form will quickly become the norm expected by payers and regulators alike.   It will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to participate in the healthcare system without an EHR within a few years.

 

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