Physicians, patients find meaningful use successful, practices say

It's a daunting task, but the small percentage of office-based physicians who have implemented EHRs and participated in the government's meaningful use incentive program indeed have lived to tell about it.

Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Cardiology, a 24-physician cardiology group that has been using health IT since 1996, is one example of a practice that already has attested to the government that it was a meaningful user and has received the maximum $18,000 per physician incentive for 2011.

In addition to the EHR, Ft. Wayne physicians have access to e-prescribing and decision-support tools, as well as the ability to report quality measures directly to the American College of Cardiology's PINNACLE registry, Dr. Michael Mirro told Internal Medicine News. The CCHIT-certified system also includes a meaningful use "meter" that tells physicians how well they are meeting the goals.

The cost of the web-based system is about $2,000 per physician per year, less than average because the practice is owned by a hospital. In addition, the practice already has achieved the stage 2 goal of incorporating a patient web portal.

Like most practices, Ft. Wayne experienced its share of growing pains in adopting the technology. One way the practice helped smooth the transition, however, is by offering point-and-click templates for physicians who don't know how to type.

Meanwhile in rural Kansas (with not enough broadband access for web-based systems), family physician Dr. Jennifer Brull has incurred far greater expenses--about $30,000 per physician so far--on her road to meaningful use. She also told IMN that the first six months following implementation were particularly challenging both mentally and physically.

Despite the struggles, Brull hasn't looked back. "I've found it easier to be more collaborative [with my patients]," she said. For example, she recently used an EHR-generated graph to show a patient that she had gained 40 pounds over three years. The graph made much more of an impression on the patient than Dr. Brull could have done by reading numbers off a paper chart, she said.

In April, Brull collected the full Medicare incentive payment for 2011.

Another recent EMR adopter, North Carolina pediatrician Dr. Bill Adams, recently shared an insightful summary of his practice's six-week implementation period on the blog Pediatric Inc. The post includes a concise list of items the doctor appreciates, regrets, and looks forward to regarding his EMR. His closing: The practice has 40 linear feet of chart shelving for sale.

To learn more:
- read the article in Internal Medicine News
- see this post from Pediatric Inc.