Does EHR Help or Hurt Doctors Wanting to Stay Independent?

Posted on September 11, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been hearing more and more people talk about the challenges that small independent doctors are having in this ever changing healthcare environment. In fact, I’ve heard a number of people proclaim the death of the small physician practice. I’m not ready to carve the gravestone of small practices, but there’s little doubt that the small physician practice is facing a lot of challenges from a lot of different angles.

athenahealth recently did a profile of whe Wilson Stream Family Practice’s challenge to stay independent. It’s a common case that many of us have no doubt seen. Although, what I found really interesting in the profile was they made the case that athenaCollector and athenaClinicals was key to them staying an independent practice. It’s only a two page profile, so check it out to see what I mean.

I found this a really interesting topic of discussion. Does an EHR help a practice stay independent?

As usual, the answer is that it depends. A poorly implemented EHR can put an independent practice out of business. However, the opposite can also be true. I’ve seen a well implemented EHR help a lot of practices get the business of their practice in order. I think an EHR will become even more valuable to an independent practice as the billing and coding rule complexity continues to increase.

One aspect of that reimbursement complexity revolves around the move to accountable care. Many indepents are selling off to hospitals in anticipation of this change, but there is a case to be made for Clinical Integration with your hospital system as opposed to a full on physician acquisition. However, a practice without an EHR won’t have the clinical integration option available to them. A hospital won’t be clinically integrating with a paper practice.

We’ll see what other forces start pressing down on doctors, but an EHR will be a required part of practicing medicine whether your practice remains independent or is acquired by a hospital.