Nearly half of all eligible providers in the United States have implemented an electronic health records system. As part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, the medical industry is being pushed to use digital systems instead of the paper charts they’re used to.
If they successfully make the switch and meet the standards established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), they could receive a cash payment and may recognize an improvement in the efficiency of their practices and the quality of care they are able to provide.
Some doctors have been hesitant about making the change, reluctant to give up the paper charts that have been embedded in the healthcare industry culture. This fear of going paperless could be a reason why half of eligible providers have yet to deploy an EHR. It might even help explain why only 12,130 of the 156,172 providers who have registered with CMS have received their payments.
Letting go of the paper-based culture
Even though most physicians are aware of the benefits they stand to gain by adopting an EHR – improved data accuracy, greater productivity and even a better chance of receiving reimbursements – they continue to use paper charts. Studies have even shown that after deploying the technology, some practices continue to use their old data entry method.
According to Chiropractic Economics, this can be explained by the deep attachment many physicians have to the medium. Since paper charts have been so deeply embedded in the culture, it can feel like losing a friend to some practitioners, the source explains, and this can push some into a grieving process.
However, this could quickly change, the news agency points out, citing the rapid rate at which consumers adopted cellphones. In 1997, fewer than 20 percent of consumers carried a cellphone, but now those without a mobile phone are in the significant minority.
Facing the fears of EHR adoption
There are three primary reasons why doctors are afraid of making a fundamental switch to the way they record patients’ health data – the quality of documentation, the ability to find records quickly and the amount of time it takes to close a patient’s chart, according to the news source. Those fears are unfounded if doctors select a high-quality EHR system that meets the needs of their practice and use best-practices when it comes to charting and coding. On the other hand, physicians who cut corners when they are documenting may run into problems when they use and EHR.