Orange County Physicians Consider EHR Adoption
A growing number of medical practices in Orange County are adopting electronic health records, but costs and privacy issues continue "to keep some in the paper age," the Orange County Register reports.
The benefits of switching to EHRs include increased efficiency, reduced medical errors and the promise of a national network that will allow providers to share patient information. However, the upfront costs of EHR systems are too high for some physician offices, the Register reports.
Despite concerns, some practices are moving ahead with plans to adopt EHRs. For example, Pacific Coast Cardiology in Newport Beach switched to electronic records and was able to recoup some of the upfront costs by eliminating two clerical positions.
Although insurance companies are not helping to finance EHRs, some are offering incentives to physicians to digitize their practices. Cigna and Aetna this week both announced that they will reimburse physicians for online checkups. In addition, Blue Shield of California reimburses physicians for e-mail consultations with patients.
Dr. David Ormerod, regional medical director for Blue Shield, said the e-mail program in some cases has helped practices start their transition to EHRs.
Meanwhile, a Kaiser Permanente pilot program in Northern California is challenging the tradition of physicians being the owners of patients' records, according to the Register. As part of the pilot - which eventually will include Orange County - Kaiser Permanente members can go online to check lab results, schedule appointments and request prescription refills (Perkes, Orange County Register, 4/6).
In related news, Sam Karp, chief program officer for the California HealthCare Foundation, said privacy concerns will need to be addressed for EHRs to be successful, the Orange County Register reports.
Karp discussed the results of a CHCF survey that was released in 2005. The survey found that one in eight U.S. residents admitted to asking their physicians not to write down information in a medical chart or asking not to be tested for a condition out of fear that their employer would find out the results (Perkes, Orange County Register, 4/6).
The CHCF privacy report is available online.