Docs: EHR transition is a rocky road

The transition to digital records is proving difficult for some medical practices, according to local press reports, with complaints including losing money because physicians can't see as many patients during the time-consuming implementation period.

Jeffrey Cain, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, acknowledged the rising chorus of complaints to Colorado Public Radio. "Right now we're in a transitional time," he said, according to a transcript of a recent news story. "Transitional times are tough."

The software for electronic health records is difficult to learn, Cain continued, adding that it took him a couple of years to become comfortable using his practice's EHR.

Sometimes, however, practices don't have that long. The story included an example of a Denver family practice that went out of business when one partner gave up on a new EHR. The remaining partners couldn't afford to repay the loan when they found out they didn't have enough Medicare patients to qualify for the full federal incentive payments.

In Michigan, executives at two major healthcare systems talked to the Lansing State Journal about losing access to records when the power goes out, or when the system is down for maintenance. They also talked about losing revenue because practices couldn't see as many patients during lengthy transitions.

The Journal article also included the example of a small Shelby, N.C., practice whose vendor discontinued its EHR product, including a version the practice used as a subscription service.

"In an industry crowded with hundreds of such vendors offering more than 1,000 electronic medical records programs, Talbert's situation is expected to repeat itself across the country as bigger companies gobble up smaller ones and software programs become redundant and obsolete," the article said.

Earlier this fall the Raleigh News and Observer reported similar complaints in an area where nearly 75 percent of physicians use digital records. Their complaints were familiar: disruption and downtime, cost, lack of interoperability and vendor discontinuation of vendor EHR products.

To learn more:
- read the radio story transcript
- here's the Lansing State Journal article