"To be real honest, the meaningful use money is a factor, but a small factor in our decision-making," he says. "The real driver of the IT expenditure is that we just believe data is going to be one of the real keys to the future success of the delivery of medicine."
Markell says allowing clinicians to have access to patient information across all care units is critical to improving care and lowering costs. He gives the example of a patient who presents in the emergency department instead of a physician's office for a nonemergent health concern. Rather than the ED doing an expensive workup of the patient, the EMR alerts the physician's office and the patient is moved to the right care setting.
"It's really about workflow, care coordination, and that the information be available to every clinician who is involved along the way," says Markell. "We need the data and information to follow patients to every part of their care. … All of that has to be there to effectively deliver well-coordinated care."
Whether or not hospitals are motivated by meaningful use dollars, they most certainly want to avoid the financial penalties that are on the horizon for those who don't get on board. The carrot will give way to the stick when Medicare payment reductions begin in 2015 for providers who are eligible but choose not to implement an EMR.
The level of concern healthcare leaders feel over declining reimbursements is hard to overstate. In the HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey 2013: Strategic Imperatives for an Evolving Industry, a whopping 92% of respondents indicated that they consider reduced reimbursements to be a threat to their organization, well ahead of the physician shortage, which ranked second with 76% of respondents identifying it as a threat.
In the same survey, 24% of respondents rated coordination across the continuum of care as the single greatest challenge for their organization with regard to clinical quality improvements, and 14% indicated that population health management is the biggest challenge—both of which can be helped greatly by the successful use of an EMR.