EHRs: Quality Care Versus Cost Savings, Next 'Meaningful Use' Rules

Some say adoption of electronic health records are not saving money like they'd hoped, but that it does improve care. In the meantime, doctor groups want a delay in the next round of "meaningful use" rules that give doctors financial incentives for utilizing such records.

HealthyCal: Electronic Health Records Improve Care, But Don’t Save Money
Thirty billion dollars was set aside to help Medicare and Medicaid providers move their operations into the high tech world of electronic health records as part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Four years later, providers say electronic health records aren't the time and money saver they hoped for -- but, they added, electronic records do improve the quality of care. Under the legislation, providers can apply for six years of funding to offset the costs of switching to this new way of operating. The earliest qualifiers received their initial grant of up to $63,750 for each provider to purchase certified software, a costly endeavor. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that it will cost at least double that for a doctor to set up a new certified system, but often costs almost four times as much (Shanafelt, 1/16).

Medpage Today: Groups Want Delay In Meaningful Use Rules
Some leading medical groups have called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to delay implementation of Stage 3 of meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs), saying providers are still trying to implement Stages 1 and 2. In its comments on proposed Stage 3 requirements issued by HHS, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) called for a delay in implementation until at least 2017, adding it also wants to delay or eliminate penalties for the third and final stage of the EHR incentive program. … The American Medical Association (AMA), which also called for a delay in implementation, said the meaningful use program has helped kick start EHR use but noted there are still technical, financial, regulatory, and operational challenges that must be dealt with first (Pittman, 1/15).

Also, a study looks at "e-visits" to the doctor's office --

Reuters: Are E-Visits As Good As Office Appointments
A new study suggests that "e-visits" for sinus infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) may be cheaper than in-person office visits and similarly effective. For e-visits, patients fill out online forms about their symptoms and a doctor or nurse gets back to them within a few hours with treatment advice (Pittman, 1/15).

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