EHRs Rush in Where Doctors Fear to Tread

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , March 21, 2013

After a 30-month rollout, the Adventist system generated a million electronic physician notes in the past 12 months. "It's not that we didn't have hurdles or obstacles," Saxena says, "but if you create the culture, if you design the steps right, it usually works out."

All Adventist physicians were compensated for completing EHR training, some received cash and some received payment in the form of an iPad, Saxena says. This paid a dividend when those physicians tapped into new hospital infrastructure that let them round with their iPads, reinforcing the physicians' ownership of the EHR system.

Calculating a return on investment for all this technology remains elusive, but Mercy estimates that half the system's recent growth is attributable to having technology and infrastructure in place. "We've added about 500 to 600 additional integrated physicians into our networks in our four states," Best says.

"Since meaningful use has been in play, physicians have been attracted to us, wanting to be a part of a health system that knows how to manage meaningful use," he says.

Most dramatically, Mercy's hospital in Joplin, Mo., was destroyed just three weeks after its EHR went live. Because it was all electronically stored, "we were able to retrieve the records within two hours," Best says.

Joplin patients showed up at the hospital in Carthage, Mo., about 20 miles from Joplin, a small critical access hospital that was doing its best just to help Mercy. "We walked in the door that very same evening with packets of complete, 100% intact patient records," Best says. "They were so impressed we began an immediate relationship with that hospital, and they eventually became part of Mercy less than a year later."

Such success stories will continue. Meanwhile, the industry is redoubling its efforts to improve. For instance, in December 2012, HHS' Office of the National Coordinator issued its first Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan for public comment.

"We've still got some bugs and kinks to work out, but I think you would find that if you took a survey of docs, overwhelmingly, all of us would heartily embrace better technology that enabled us to have all the data we needed when we needed it and not waste time and money repeating things we would like not to repeat," says Stack.

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This article appears in the March 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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