Many physician practices say they expect to experience a drop in productivity during the coming months as they attempt to meet new government regulations for "meaningful use" of electronic health records, or EHRs, according to new research(www.mgma.com) from the Medical Group Management Association, or MGMA.
Nearly 68 percent of 450 physician practices that responded to a questionnaire from the MGMA said that changes in practice operations necessary to meet the federal government's 25 proposed criteria would slow physicians' daily work. In addition, 31 percent said productivity would decrease by more than 10 percent.
Physicians have a financial stake in meeting the federal criteria for EHRs because doing so will make them eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments beginning in 2011.
MGMA President and CEO William Jessee, M.D., said in a recent press release(www.mgma.com) that meaningful use criteria must be "practical and achievable" for the incentive program to succeed.
"If the final rule mirrors those (criteria) outlined in the current proposal, there is significant risk that the program will fail to meet the intent of the legislation and that a historic opportunity to transform the nation's health care system will be missed," said Jessee.
He added that physician practices would have difficulty sustaining the high cost to deploy an EHR system in tandem with a significant decrease in productivity. "It is clear that the transition to electronic health information technologies must begin by successfully aligning incentives with overall cost to the implementing entities," said Jessee.
Of the practices that responded to the survey, nearly 99 percent were aware the federal government was offering incentives to encourage physicians to implement and use EHRs in a meaningful way. And nearly 82 percent of respondents said they planned to implement an EHR during the next six to 36 months.
The MGMA survey also found that
- slightly more than 41 percent of practices said their EHR vendors had told them that their systems would allow providers to qualify for incentives,
- nearly 83 percent of practices said it was likely or very likely that some providers would attempt to qualify for bonuses by the end of 2011, and
- just more than 61 percent of practices said the incentive payments would help their practice establish or upgrade its EHR systems.
In addition, nearly 46 percent of respondents said it would be difficult or very difficult to meet the proposed requirement that 80 percent of all patient requests for an electronic copy of the patient's health information be fulfilled within 48 hours.
Nearly 54 percent of respondents said they would have a difficult or very difficult time attaining the requirement that 10 percent of all patients have electronic access to their health records within 96 hours of the information becoming available.