Report: Pay Physicians to Connect

By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 2004-10-29
An expert analysis, conducted in part by the national health IT czar, says new policy and a better business case will be necessary to sustain the adoption of health IT in physician practices.

"The current business case for the adoption of health IT systems is not sufficient," said a statement from the Markle Foundation, which initiated the analysis by a nine-member working group organized by the foundations public-private collaborative, Connecting for Health. David Brailer, the national health IT coordinator, was one of the members.

The report concludes that financial incentives are necessary to encourage health care providers to adopt IT systems that allow for interconnectivity.

It estimates that $12,000 to $24,000 annually per full-time physician could encourage widespread adoption. That works out to a cost of $3 to $6 per patient visit, or about $10 per year for each health plan member.

If health information is to be exchanged across settings, technology must be adopted by physicians in small and midsize practices. This group represents over half of the nations physicians and is by far the least likely to use health IT.

"Interoperability is absolutely a requirement. We have to deal with the fact that we need access to your information no matter where youre being treated," said John Quinn, chief technology officer of Capgeminis provider health practice, who did not participate in writing the report.

Technologies with lower financial hurdles, like e-prescribing and online chronic disease management, will likely be the best entry points. Quinn called the technologies "two very good pieces of low-hanging fruit."

In addition, policy could be improved to encourage information exchange and help practices cope with issues of security, privacy, medical malpractice and change.

The Markle report identified five main barriers to adopting EHRs (electronic health records) as cost of adoption, workflow impact, immature commercial products, practice transformation challenges, and lack of standards and electronic data exchange.

These results were consistent with another recent analysis from Capgemini on the attitudes of health executives toward EHR.

The Markle report assessed "use cases," or scenarios, in which IT could help patients, physicians or hospitals manage chronic diseases or receive routine or emergency care. It evaluated each case from the perspective of five-physician primary care and cardiology practices.

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