Docs charging patients for EHR maintenance? Not likely

While it's unlikely to happen in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), concerned that the country's new Personally Controlled EHR System (PCEHR) will overwhelm its rural physicians, is going to recommend that the physicians charge the patients a fee to input and maintain the patients' records.

PCEHR, Australia's new $466.7 million national e-health records system, makes the records available to both the physician and the patient electrically in a secure, nationwide network, and will "revolutionize the delivery of care in Australia," according to the Australian government's Department of Health and Aging. It's set to launch July 1, 2012.

But it doesn't provide physicians with any reimbursement to make the transition, says RDAA. The association supports the move to PCEHR but warns that rural physicians in particular are overworked and underpaid and just can't take this on without financial help.

According to David Lee Scher, Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn State University's School of Medicine and owner of DLS Healthcare Consulting, patients here would never pay doctors to maintain their records "because there are already free systems available."

"I don't think people in the U.S. are engaged enough to even consider paying for a PHR or EHR," he told FierceEMR.

There's also the question of cost. It's well documented that physicians in Australia--and in most other countries, in fact--earn much less than their American counterparts, meaning they have a more compelling argument to ask for help than most U.S. physicians. American doctors also already are entitled to extra money to adopt electronic health records by participating in the incentive program.

"The Government ... needs to come to the party and provide fair compensation for the time and effort that rural doctors and practices will need to invest in getting patients onto the system and then maintaining the records on that system," Paul Mara, president of RDAA said in a statement. 

If the government won't provide an incentive, then some physicians may not participate in PCEHR or charge patients for the privilege, he warns.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement from RDAA
- read about PCEHR