Practices will lose value if they don't adopt EHRs, says HIT coordinator

Kudos to InformationWeek's Marianne Kolbasuk McGee for scoring a comprehensive interview with Dr. David Blumenthal, who's been hard to pin down since he took the job as national health IT coordinator in April 2009. While Blumenthal is legally prohibited from discussing what's going to be in the final rules for meaningful use until HHS actually issues the standards, he is happy to discuss physician adoption of EHRs, the penalties for non-compliance with meaningful use and the legislation that created the health IT subsidy program.

While Medicare and Medicaid penalties for not using EHRs don't kick in until 2015, Blumenthal says it's important for providers to get on board with meaningful use sooner rather than later. "In future stages of meaningful use, our goal is to make sure that information follows patients. Organizations that participate in the care of patients must support the gathering of information in ways that meet the full needs of patients regardless of where they get their care," he tells McGee.

Blumenthal believes physicians will see the value of their practices plummet if they don't adopt EHRs. Older doctors may have trouble selling their practices and will struggle to recruit younger doctors. "This new generation of physicians isn't going to tolerate a paper world," Blumenthal says.

And preparing for retirement should no longer be an excuse to resist technology, according to Blumenthal. "If you're a 50- to 60-year-old physician, you're in the prime of your professional career and your patient panel is expanding. You probably want to bring on a new partner-maybe two or three-so you'll be recruiting. There's a physician shortage, so what's going to make your practice competitive?"

He also says that paper charts "are just not adequate" for reporting to Accountable Care Organizations unless practices continue to rely on claims data and incomplete documentation.

For more of Blumenthal's remarks:
- read this Q&A in InformationWeek