EMR Uptake By Doctors Slowed By Lack of Time And Knowledge, Not Just Cash

Posted on October 15, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Hospitals, you probably know that small practices are the last ones to adopt an EMR, and you may find it pretty frustrating. You may also be assuming that the only reason most small practices haven’t brought an EMR on board is because they can’t afford it.

Think again, says Rosemarie Nelson, principal with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group. In a new piece for KevinMD.com, Nelson argues that lack of time and knowledge is just as big of an issue, if not a bigger one, in small practice EMR adoption delays.

As she rightly notes, such doctors face a wide range of issues, including the following:

EMR selection:  Most small practice-doctors already have their hands full with patient care, and if they switch to working on EMR selection the practice loses money. So who does the vendor sorting, sifting and selection?

EMR expertise:  Choosing an EMR requires an understanding of the range of products available and how they might serve the practice, as well as a sense of how well vendors will support the product and the ability to handle the implementation. Whew! None of that comes easy.

Financial management expertise:  To get a sense of when the EMR has begun to offer a return on investment, the practice needs someone who can analyze current operational costs and productivity benchmarks, then compare those with projected operational costs and productivity during and post go-live. That’s another tall order.

Staffing the EMR implementation:  Few small practices have the human resources readily available to implement and manage an EMR. Certainly, existing clinicians already have their hands full.  Nelson estimates that the implementation calls for a full-timer for three to six months, plus .20 to .25 of an FTE for ongoing support and management. Where will those resources come from?

Ultimately, practices typically end up seeking help from outside consultants who know the EMR playing field, but even that’s a big and costly decision which calls for its own selection process.  No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to argue that small practices are still up against it when it comes to EMR adoption. So maybe it’s time for hospitals to step up on the management support front, no?