A solo doctor advises
“Not talking to Purdue would have been the biggest mistake I could have made,” said Daniel Wegg, M.D., a solo general practitioner with offices in Lynn and Ridgeville. His practice, a rural health clinic, is well on its way toward implementing an electronic health record system (EHR) – with help from the Indiana Health Information Technology Extension Center (I-HITEC) at Purdue University.
The obvious need for an EHR came to light at a staff meeting. “We talked about patient safety, and just about every issue that came up could be blamed on paper charts,” Dr. Wegg explained. “We’re drowning in paper, and I’m reaching the stage where I can’t keep track of it all. Besides, paper is not portable. I have two offices, and I need charts at both locations. So, we needed to make the switch.”
Looking for guidance, Dr. Wegg learned about the grant-funded REC at Purdue. He made a call to I-HITEC and their staff visited his office, helped him research appropriate vendors and offered advice. “They will support me, take us by the hand and walk us through it.”
Dr. Wegg signed a contract with I-HITEC for his three providers; the up-front contracting cost is now $750. What’s the return on that investment? “I’ll get $15-18,000 of guidance from them,” he said. The practice has selected a vendor and is now contacting other rural health facilities that use the system to learn how it functions for them.
If you’re comfortable with paper – fine for you, Dr. Wegg said. But he thinks most medical offices will not be fine in the near future. When you begin to “drown in paper,” his advice is: “Talk to Purdue (I-HITEC). Your first call is free.”
|The practices of these physicians are working with the Indiana Health Information Technology Extension Center at Purdue University: (left to right) Daniel Wegg, M.D., with offices in Lynn and Ridgeville, and Brett Brechner, D.O., and Brent Jacobus, D.O., of Crown Point.
Have an EHR? RECs are resources
Maybe you already have an EHR, like Winfield Family Medicine in Crown Point. The practice purchased e-MDs Solution Series EHR in 2008 but needed help to achieve meaningful use and qualify for incentive payments.
“I was reading about meaningful use and PQRI. It was a nightmare,” said Teresa Dyer, practice manager. “We were planning for implementation when I received an email from e-MDs about the REC grant. I saw Purdue got a grant, so I called.”
In fact, Dyer called so early, the government had not yet finalized rules for meaningful use or certification. But conference calls and discussions began. In January, e-MDs received certification status and installed the update to its EHR system. In March I-HITEC staff visited to discuss core standards and measures.
“There’s so much red tape,” said Dyer. “To have someone decipher all that for us is great.”
Staff hopes to earn incentive payments next year, but that’s not their prime motivator. “We purchased our EHR because we wanted to streamline our practice and improve quality of care. Our staff is on board and they understand the importance of that,” Dyer explained.
Yet, when it comes to value, practice physician Brett Brechner, D.O., pointed out the narrow margin that constrains primary care practices today.
“It’s very necessary for doctors using EHRs to be certain they’re getting the most out of their systems – for their sakes and for their patients’ benefit,” he noted. “It’s upsetting for us to spend both time and money to be in compliance for only the possibility of getting a reimbursement for our efforts.”
An upcoming issue will detail the experience of a practice working with the Tri-State REC, which serves 19 southern Indiana counties.
|About those RECs…
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds Regional Extension Centers, Indiana Health Information Technology Extension Center at Purdue University, as well as the Tri-State REC for 19 counties in southeastern Indiana (plus parts of Ohio and Kentucky).
RECs cannot give you money to purchase EHR software or hardware. But, the RECs can help you with direct, on-site support to:
- Select the certified EHR product that best meets your needs
- Enhance and expand your use of an existing EHR
- Implement an EHR within federal timelines
- Enhance workflow, maximizing your system to improve quality of care
- Avoid common mistakes and check all boxes to qualify for incentives
- Comply with legal, regulatory, professional and ethical requirements to protect privacy and security of patient information
Find out more about Purdue’s REC and the Tri-State REC (for some southern Indiana counties).