Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders News , July 19, 2007

With all the confusion about the actual results of electronic records, it's no wonder that 75 percent of physician practices don't have them. In fact, in the span of one week, the Washington Post reports Electronic Records Don't Always Improve Care, and then tells readers that E-Records Pay for Themselves.

When I was at the MGMA conference last October, several physicians told me implementing electronic records has been a real headache. They had a lot anxiety about installing an expensive system only to have to rip it out and start over again. But progress is being made, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

A recent AAFP survey found that 37 percent of respondents had fully implemented EHRs and 13 percent were in the process of implementing a system. The AAFP says that typically physicians who have EHRs have practiced for less than seven years, don't own their practices, and worked with at least two other physicians.

Going back to that Post story about EHR return on investment, that report is based on a study published in the July issue of the American College of Surgeons. The study looked at the ROI of the University of Rochester Medical Center/Strong Health in upstate New York. Phase one of the EHR implementation--of Allscripts' TouchWorksTM software--included 28 physicians who are employed full-time faculty and work in five different practices on the URMC campus.

The study found total one-year savings of $373,600, which amounts to $13,343 per provider. The study's coauthor, David Krusch, MD, chief medical information officer for URMC, said that the organization was looking at ways to multi-track the implementation to 322 more providers. "The time is right, and most providers now feel they can't manage their practices without instant access to a common record," he said.

When I see stories like this one, I wonder whether the findings highlighted are the norm. I'm especially interested in experiences that smaller practices might have with electronic records implementation. From time to time I might include these tech-related stories in this space, but for the most part I'll leave that to my colleague, Gary Baldwin. He covers healthcare technology better than I can in his weekly e-newsletter, HealthLeaders Media IT and in HealthLeaders magazine.

Rick Johnson is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at rjohnson@healthleadersmedia.com.

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