Electronic Health Records will change the practice of medicine. Physicians, hospitals, medical groups are all in the process of converting to the electronic health record. Currently, nearly $4.5 billion in federal incentives have helped move this conversion forward. Over the final three months of 2011, EHR incentive payments from the federal government doubled. In a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics nearly 57% of physician practices currently utilize EHR for matters other than billing. In a recent study, it was found that many physicians found the conversion to EHR to be difficult or very difficult. Primarily, the taxing issues were financial and in the realm of training or lack thereof. Education in the area of EHR is very important. On December 8, 2011, I spoke at a seminar for LawReview CLE entitled: Introduction to Electronic Health Records. This CLE provided a background into the EHR world and many of the issues, including legal issues and implementation issues that physicians, physician clinics and hospitals will face.
Many rural physicians and smaller physician groups are still behind in the implementation of EHR in their practices. The Modern Healthcare article entitled “Small Providers Still Lag on EHRs,” sets forth the findings of two studies to support this claim. (I was surprised it took studies to verify this fact.) Finances and the daunting thought of implementation are key factors for this lag. In order to help these rural physicians and physician groups make strides in the EHR conversion, not only must financial incentives continue, but also continued efforts to educate and to aid in the training of the EHR process.