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Grant Money Funds New Online EHR Help

There is an enormous effort nationally and within California to get physicians — particularly primary care physicians — to convert to electronic health records. The group least equipped to make the switch are the cash-strapped, time-challenged, small-office family medicine practices.

That’s where Susan Hogeland of the California Academy of Family Physicians hopes to step in and make a difference.

CAFP just received a grant from the Physicians Foundation to try an interesting project — to reach physicians in California online, to remotely help them research, fund and implement EHR systems in their offices.

“There are funds available from Medicare and Medi-Cal to help physicians put electronic medical record systems in place,” Hogeland said. “We want doctors to evaluate which system would work best for them. They need some assistance to decide which way to go.”

The problem in the smaller offices, she said, is that physicians just don’t have the time to figure out which system they want, and how to set it up.

“We liken it to changing the tires on a moving car,” Hogeland said. “Our physicians struggle every day to keep the doors open and keep patients healthy. Look, the office doors are open, patients are coming in, it’s flu season — and at the same time you have to adopt an EMR?”

So one of the answers is to go online, she said. “Doctors can evaluate it all whenever they have time,” she said.

With the grant money, the group will design an online self-assessment tool, so physicians can evaluate their readiness to adopt an EHR system. The money will also go toward developing a health information technology resource center, so that physicians can investigate funding options and implementation procedures.

“We’re very anxious to convert doctors’ offices to patient-centered medical homes” to comply with national health care reforms that kick off in 2014, Hogeland said. “This isn’t just a matter of keeping medical records, it’s a proactive way of treating patients.”

For example, she said, when a doctor orders a blood test for diabetes, there’s no way of knowing, three weeks later, what happened to that test. Did the patient come in and get the test? Has the lab done it?

“There are many places where care decisions can slip through the cracks,” she said. “With an electronic medical record, you can see where it is. That’s critical to the improvement of care, and closing the care loop.”

A series of seminars will be offered, as well. Using the $145,000 grant, the seminars and website will be developed between now and 2011, Hogeland said.

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