In 2009, Congress set aside a stimulus fund for the express purpose assisting the medical profession to switch over to EMR (electronic medical records) from the traditional paper medical records. The goal is to save money while increasing the level of patient care through better communication between health care providers.
One of the early adopters of this new technology, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches CEO, Manny Fernandez, has stated that he believe the changeover will completely transform medical care through an increase inefficiency.
This was illustrated when Fernandez needed to make a trip to the ER at JFK Medical Center while complaining of chest pain. In this instance, the physician was able to make the determination not to place an order for costly radiation-based tests. This determination was based on the fact that he could see on iPhone that those tests had already been taken by Fernandez and the results were normal.
Fernandez was quick to point out how this scenario differed drastically from the past. In years gone by, Fernandez stated that the doctor wouldn’t have hesitated in ordering expensive tests that would have been proven to be redundant. When considering the savings over an extended period of time, one can see the advantages of EMR, Fernandez noted.
The first EMR incentive checks under the HITECH Act will be cut for qualifying doctors by Florida’s Agency for Health care Administration in September. $248M is expected to be handed out over the course of the next fiscal year according to Shelisha Coleman, an agency spokesperson.
Up to $44,000 can be applied for by each doctor that has made an investment in servers, computers, software, tech support and training. This money will be released over a period of five years. Those who treat a high percentage of patients receiving Medicaid can qualify for a higher payout of $64,000. Hospitals may be awarded up to several million in accordance with the payout formula.
However, it has been estimated that EMR computerized medical records will save the healthcare industry in excess of $70 billion through the elimination of duplicate and inefficient healthcare. This was called an optimistic number, since the Congressional Budget Office estimated the savings at about $17 billion (according to The Washington Post).
In part, because of its complexity, the health care industry has been cited as one of the last sectors of the United States economy to employ this technology. Another concern was the lack of standardization which means incompatibility between different software systems. Other past issues included the expense of the equipment along with software that exhibited errors and glitches.