When asked for a key driver of a doctor practices success, a real estate expert is likely to say, location, location, location. Now, some information technology experts are saying the same thing about a practices likelihood for a financially successful electronic health record implementation.
Health care organizations in IT-intensive markets are more likely to see a decrease in operational costs after EHR implementation, while those in non-IT intensive markets are likely to see an increase in costs for at least six years, according to researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
David Dranove, PhD, professor of health industry management at the Kellogg School of Management and a co-author of the report, stated he and fellow researchers were not surprised by the findings. Its a pattern you see in other industries, he said.
The thing that makes the health care industry unique is that many organizations do not view health IT as a process improvement that requires not just the technology but also the know-how, he said. The know-how will be easier to come by in regions populated by tech-savvy people, which tend to be regions with a significant number of technology companies.
The study of 4,231 hospitals, published in August as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that hospitals in IT-intensive markets that adopted EHRs from 1996 to 2009 experienced a 3.4% decrease in costs three years after adopting a basic EHR and a 2.2% cost decrease three years after adopting an advanced EHR. Hospitals in areas with the least amount of IT firms saw up to a 4% increase in costs as long as six years after adoption.
The authors wrote that the productivity impact of EHRs depends on factors beyond the technology itself, such as the experience of a hospitals IT staff as well as the labor market for skilled labor and third-party software and support.
Imagine getting an iPhone without getting someone to help you use it, Dranove said. It seems intuitive, but theres so many possibilities for its use that to get the ideal out of it, it helps to have two types of people help you. One would be friends and family who already know how to use it, and the other would be the technical support that you get from the outside.
Although the study looked only at hospitals and did not include doctor practices in its analysis, Dranove stated the findings would apply to all health care organizations. A practices success with EHR implementations will rely on its staffs level of tech-savviness. In non-IT intensive regions, practices will have an even harder time, he said.
I would have to concur to a certain point with that, stated Jerrilyn Cowper, solutions manager for CTG Health Solutions, a technology and business consulting firm based in Buffalo, N.Y. She stated smaller regions with limited IT resources will have the ideal talent gobbled up by massive organizations.
She is seeing a trend of practices being purchased by hospitals or partnering with other organizations as a means of sharing IT talent.
Cowper and Dranove stated doctors must be realistic when it comes to assessing their own and their staffs level of tech knowledge. They sometimes think they know more than they do. Cowper stated she once worked with a doctor who considered himself very tech-savvy but couldnt figure out how to document in an EHR while seeing a patient. He ended up hiring a scribe.
If neither the doctor nor the staff are up to the challenge, they are probably going to fail at their implementation, or they are going to struggle, Cowper said.
Copyright 2012 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.
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Submited at Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 4:15 pm on Uncategorized by jessica
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