Physician Groups Weighing Cost, Benefit of Technology
The Boston Globe on Friday examined a "widening technology gap" between large physician networks that use electronic health records and smaller, independent practices that cannot afford to install them.
In Massachusetts, about 20% to 25% of the 30,000 doctors in the state have incorporated EHRs into their practices. Most physicians who use the technology are part of large academic medical centers or groups with more resources, the Globe reports. Nationally, about 10% to 15% of doctors use EHRs.
Advocates say EHRs make patient care more efficient by reducing medical errors, alerting physicians to dangerous drug interactions or allergies, facilitating the review of medical tests online and helping send out patient reminders. However, many doctors in independent group practices have resisted using the technology, in part because it can cost $10,000 to $60,000 per physician and require extensive training and data entry.
In addition, some doctors worry about technology becoming obsolete and say there is little benefit to EHRs because physician groups use different computer systems that cannot communicate with each other.
However, Christopher Jedrey, a health care lawyer at the Boston firm of McDermott Will & Emery, said doctors who do not adopt EHRs will have difficulty competing under health insurers' pay-for-performance systems, which in some cases can increase a doctor's income by 3% to 4%.
"I just don't see how doctors can stay in the game unless they are somehow plugged into an electronic medical record," Ellen Zane, CEO of Tufts-New England Medical Center, said.
Thomas Lee, CEO of Partners Community HealthCare, said, "At the end of the day, the reason to make this transition is its qualitatively better care. The goal is to make patients better, not to preserve the way of life of autonomous single physician practices" (Rowland, Boston Globe, 2/10).