The Sole use of the Electronic Health Record (#EHR) System

is not Adequate to save Independent Physicians' Practices

The Meaningful use of Electronic Health Record and value-based Reimbursement demands unswerving Human Participation


Originally published by Technology Hits on Medium

Image by Chokniti Khongchum from Pixabay

According to the American medical association report, only 49.1% of its 3,500 national survey respondents worked in private practice as of fall 2020, dropping from the 54% reported in 2018. It is the most significant shift the AMA has observed since 2012. It’s also the first time the proportion has ever dropped below 50%. The results seem to be accelerating the existing physician drift since 2012 and possibly enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic. That is so; even some physicians are leaving medical practice altogether. This downward trend in private physician practice can be partially associated with implementing meaningful electronic health records, which the government implemented in 2009. It was meant to mark the initial transition to a new value-based care model. Recent calamities associated with the meaningful-use law make one thing clear: Medical practices need to get away from a software-only approach to providing better care to patients. The SaaS-based (Software as a Service) systems are simply not getting the job done. A better practice-management system that helps providers stay within meaningful-use guidelines to avoid penalties from the government is essential for smaller, independent medical practices. It has been found that hundreds of thousands of smaller practices have been accepting penalties from regulators instead of implementing new policies because implementation is more burdensome and expensive than paying a fine. Now it is clear that many who have tried to comply and who believed they complied were falling short of the guidelines because their SaaS-based management systems were falling short. Compared with the larger health systems, independent practices are in a worse position to implement expensive new policies or face fines for failing to do so. The independent physician is already under such fearsome cost pressures that many are closing their office doors for good because it is simply too expensive to continue in independent practice.

This situation is terrible for the country’s healthcare system. It is wrong for doctors and bad for patients.

Fortunately, we can overturn that damaging upshot! For independent doctors who want to comply with meaningful use laws and fully transition to value-based care, a more robust practice management system can lead to financial rewards from the government instead of fines. And more importantly, better management can lead to better outcomes for patients. Practice management of the future will combine the expertise of people with advanced software. It will not attempt to replace human workers with technology. The software has indisputably enhanced the country’s healthcare system. Just as it has with banking, retail, and other sectors, advanced software programs have streamlined operations, cut costs, and reduced inefficiencies. But this technology is only valid when it is in the hands of skilled and trained human connoisseurs. Banking software and ATMs have not replaced bank managers; they have made the manager’s job easier. The many software platforms used in retail have not replaced seasoned sales teams or chief operating officers. The software is just an instrument, and it is effective because it is in the hands of human experts. That is the way medical practices need to think, especially independent practices. Effective practice management will never be a matter of better electronic health records or better administrative software. It will be a tool that will help the healthcare community better utilize their resources, better ensure quality medical care, and better stay in compliance with the law. Healthcare is a business of people helping people. Any management system that seeks to relegate human expertise or swap it utterly with algorithms will fall short. The more robust, hands-on system that involves skilled staff and cutting-edge software working together will be the system that helps the independent doctor not just avoid penalties but thrive as a business while offering healthier care.

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