In response to the request from Congresswoman Renee Ellmers—a fellow North Carolinian—to exempt soon-to-retire doctors and small medical practices from the federal requirement to use an electronic health record (EHR), I say ‘Not needed.’
I am 66 years of age and I adopted an EHR in January 2011, when I was 64. The upfront cost was reasonable and training was done without interrupting my schedule. In addition, since my vendor—athenahealth—is only paid if I am paid, they have a vested interest in making certain that claims are filed and paid in a timely manner.
For the first three months in 2011, I learned to use the system. During the next three months, I fulfilled all the requirements for Meaningful Use and I attested at the end of June. A few months later, I received my check for $18,000 without any significant hassle on my part—the attestation was all done by my vendor.
I find that using the athenahealth electronic health record has greatly improved my documentation, virtually eliminated claims denials or resubmissions, facilitated communications with other health providers and patients, and has even reduced postage and office supplies. It did not impact my workflow because the system is easily modified (by me, not the vendor). Moreover, some of the requirements of Meaningful Use helped me deliver better patient care--like the requirement that I provide a clinical summary to patients after their visit.
Physicians of my age went to medical school during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The application process was very competitive and, as a result, they are all smart people. To imply that we are incapable of adopting and learning to efficiently use an EHR is nonsense. To the good Congresswoman, I would reply that her time could be better spent concentrating her efforts on bringing Medicare reimbursement in line with private insurance carriers.
Dr. Eubanks is an athenahealth client.