Many times, government agencies and payers put demands on physicians that disrupt workflow. These demands come on top of the already extensive disruptions and intrusions physicians experience.
As physicians decide or are required to move from a paper to an electronic health record, Texas must carefully consider the impact of any new regulatory burdens placed on the physician practice, especially when many of these burdens do nothing to improve care quality.
For instance, to achieve the goals of “meaningful use,” the federal government requires that physicians have a system that tracks patients’ height, weight, and blood pressure as part of “structured data.” This is required even if the physician practices a specialty where height and weight play little or no role in the medical care they provide to patients. Do patients really want to be weighed at the ophthalmologist when updating their eyeglass prescription? According to the federal government, if a physician “believes that one or two of these vital signs are relevant to their scope of practice, then they must record all three vital signs in order to meet the measure of this objective and successfully demonstrate meaningful use.” Texas should not repeat the mistakes of the federal government.
Texas must recognize that not every medical practice will benefit from an EHR. In fact, it could be disruptive to some and could hurt patient care. Requiring a physician to rely on a system that is counter-intuitive to his or her clinical training could result in adverse outcomes for the patient. Even expert users find that EHRs require more physician time than paper records and can interrupt the patient-physician interaction in the exam room. A sizeable portion of patients are concerned about the security of their electronic medical records. A July 2012 survey found "roughly half of Americans still say that they are concerned that their digitized health data could be lost, damaged, or corrupted."
In some cases, EHRs are cost-prohibitive regardless of federal incentives. Not all physicians are eligible for the Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentives. The average EHR purchase cost is about $40,000 per physician, not including productivity dips that hurt practice revenues. Some medical practices operate on such thin profit margins that the capital investment of an EHR could lead to bankruptcy.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights, now reviewing the results of its pilot HIPAA compliance audit program, is planning a more streamlined audit process but an expanded pool of organizations audited in the permanent program, says OCR Director Leon...
Texas Medical Association's insight:
Eliminate costs and hassles that don’t contribute to or add value to patient care
The cost to operate a physician’s office continues to climb unabated. Unfunded mandates and hidden regulatory burdens like the ongoing hassles of annually renewing state registration to continue to prescribe needed medications for patients threaten the viability of practices and patients’ access to care. The average cost to staff and run a practice now exceeds $500,000 per physician, and that’s before the physician gets paid a dime. These excessive administrative expenses add to the escalating cost of medical care that are borne by patients, employers, and taxpayers.
Excessive regulations also hurt local economies, which receive nearly $1 million in wages and benefits for each physician in practice. Physician offices employ support staff and often work with nonphysician providers, increasing the total number of employees in the industry to well above the count of physicians alone. In 2009, Texas office-based physicians supported 249,010 jobs. On average, each office-based physician supported 5.8 jobs, including his or her own.
Texas should not burden practices with additional regulatory costs that provide no benefit to patients or their health care.
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