Managing in this Era of Change

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Chris Kaiser, Editor
If all goes well, the U.S. will have a health IT network situated within five years. The latest challenge to this goal, however, revolves around state privacy laws. Apparently, in states that have such regulations, the adoption of EMRs is stymied.

Similar to a domino effect, when one hospital adopts an EMR, other local providers and networks are more likely to follow suit. Conversely, if one hospital or network doesn’t install an EMR because of privacy laws, other providers in the area also are not likely to adopt an EMR.

This trend could hamper the overall goal of a nationwide electronic health network (NHIN), not to mention prolong the economic and clinical benefits that individual practices can realize with the proper use of an EMR. Research has shown that health IT connectivity saves money through better efficiencies, and that it improves the intelligence with which data can be mined.

The good news is that the federal government has multiple committees overseeing the connectivity process. In this week's Practice Management Portal, we highlight a meeting of one such committee, in which presenters detailed the progress toward establishing an NHIN. Like any sweeping change, the process is fraught with challenges and overcoming those challenges is a big part of meeting the five-year goal.

Speaking of sweeping changes, various permutations of equipment usage rate increases have been proposed, ranging from 75 percent to 90 percent and even 95 percent, from the current 50 percent rate. CMS is taking comments until August 31 on its 90 percent proposed change. The other suggested changes are embedded in the various congressional healthcare reform bills.

Reimbursement for cardiovascular services has taken a hit and this latest proposal could further strain many practices, particularly those getting into cardiac CT and PET.

The House’s reform bill also includes a proposal to do away with the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, which is welcome news as the SGR has been a favorite target of derision for many physicians.

It will be interesting to see how practices and hospitals incorporate the many changes coming through healthcare reform. One thing is certain, however: Those providers that properly utilize health IT will thrive. The age of using data intelligently is upon us and this can be done most efficiently with practice management software programs, EMRs and other electronic—and wireless—connections. 

If you or your group is interested in finding out more about the capabilities of health IT and how it can extend and expand the reach of your services, head over to our Healthcare TechGuide and check out the variety of vendors and whitepapers offered there.

And if you have a comment or report to share about how health IT or the sweeping healthcare reforms are changing your practice, please contact me at the address below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Chris Kaiser, Editor