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Doctors Dump Small Practices To Join Large Providers

Posted on November 5, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Intimidated, in part, by the health IT expenses they’re expected to bear, doctors are leaving private practices to seek jobs with large healthcare organizations, according to a new study by Accenture.  The need to purchase EMRs certainly isn’t the only reason doctors are jumping ship, but it is one of the most important reasons, the firm found.

Accenture interviewed 204 doctors in May, drawing from an even mix of primary care docs and specialists across equally-divided sections of the U.S.

The study results projected that only 36 percent of doctors will remain part of an independent practice by 2013, down from 39 percent this year and 57 percent in 2000. (I knew doctors were streaming into integrated health systems but that blew my mind.)

According to the Accenture survey, 53 percent of doctors responding said that EMRs requirements drove them to look for employment with big health organizations.

Doctors are also spending big on updated practice management, billing and scheduling applications. My guess is that in some cases mobile health spending is beginning to rear its head as well, even in smaller practices. After all, while doctors generally bring their own devices to the party, practices may see it as in their interest to own mobile gear and applications as they become more central to care delivery.

On the other hand, health IT may also be the saving grace for some. Doctors who do remain independent are likely to offer telemedicine or online consultations to help keep their profits at an acceptable level, researchers found.

Readers, I doubt any of you are too surprised by Accenture’s findings. I doubt public policy planners are either.

Given these realities, I’ve always wondered why no one has proposed re-structuring Meaningful Use for smaller organizations to account for the disproportionate effect such investments have on the smallest practices, say those with five doctors or less.  Incentives are all well and good, but if we don’t want to see independent practice all but wiped out, perhaps some up-front grants are in order.

Preventable Issues Arise When Paper Documentation is Used

Posted on I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

It’s an unfortunate truth that the health care system is not fool proof, and mistakes happen. Many of these mistakes happen because of paperwork that is lost, unreadable, or misplaced. Even with the implementation of EMRs across the country, many healthcare providers are still relying on paper for many aspects of their practice. Referral MD created an infographic that shows some of the current problems in healthcare related to using paper documents:

Pretty scary, if you ask me. Doctor’s are notorious for having terrible handwriting, but 7000 patients die a year because of it? And 30 percent of tests have to be reordered because the orders were misplaced? These statistics are startling, in large part because they are preventable. Those are only two of the facts presented in this infographic, and in combination with everything else, it makes me wonder why anyone that has an EMR would still use paper, and why the practices that don’t use EMRs haven’t started. It makes me not want to trust the system even more.

I can see how patients and doctors alike may find it hard to switch over. When I wasn’t given a physical, paper prescription to take to the pharmacy to get my son’s medication, I was a bit taken back, but it made things so much easier when I actually arrived at the pharmacy. I compare that to the many prescriptions and lab orders I lost during my pregnancy because I set it down and forgot to pick it up again, never to find it again until months later while doing some cleaning. It made me really wish my OB/GYN had electronic documents more incorporated into his practice. I’m curious to see if he has any EMR at all. Since he’s been a doctor for 40+ years, maybe he’s having a hard time making the switch.

It’s one thing if a person dies from a terminal illness, but to pass away because of a preventable mistake is uncalled for. I realize that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. But when a mistake could mean someone dying, a patient’s information being misused, or a HIPAA violation occurring, something is wrong. Hopefully as EMRs become better and more practices have them, paper documentation will become a thing of the past, and these mistakes, breeches, and all other issues that are related to using paper, will go that way as well.