GE Healthcare Study Finds Physicians May Accelerate Adoption of Electronic Medical Records
NEW ORLEANS - GE Healthcare, a division of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), released today key learnings about physician attitudes toward Stark Relaxation, based on data obtained from an independent study. The study reveals that recent relaxation of the “Stark” Physician Referral law and Anti-Kickback Statute (“Stark Relaxation”) could greatly accelerate the adoption of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems by physicians and could as much as double the number of physician practices that are willing to acquire or upgrade an EMR system within the next year. GE Healthcare commissioned an independent market research firm to conduct a blinded study of 200 physicians in small, medium and large practices to identify what effects Stark Relaxation may have on physicians’ intent to acquire or upgrade EMR systems in the next 12 to 36 months.
In 2006, the federal Department of Health and Human Services through its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Office of the Inspector General created new safe harbors and exceptions to the regulations implementing the Anti-Kickback Statute and the “Stark” Physician Referral law. These rules, before the recent modifications, had limited hospital financial support for physician implementation of EMRs.
In 2005, a RAND Corporation study found that only 15 to 20 percent of physician offices and 20 to 25 percent of hospitals in the U.S. had adopted EMR systems.1 With Stark Relaxation and the opportunity for EMR donations, the proportion of physician practices indicating that they are likely to acquire a new EMR or upgrade an existing system in the next 12 months almost doubles to 57 percent, and further increases to 62 percent in the next three years.
“Stark Relaxation has created a tremendous opportunity for physicians to overcome the many barriers that prevent them from adopting EMR systems, most notably cost,” said Mike Raymer, Vice President and General Manager, Product Strategy and New Business Initiatives for GE Healthcare Integrated IT Solutions. “By allowing hospitals and other entities to provide EMR technology to physician practices at a subsidy of up to 85 percent, physicians are now better positioned to implement these comprehensive systems and provide a complete and current picture of a patient’s medical history – helping physicians raise the quality and improve the safety of healthcare.”
Regardless of the opportunity to acquire or upgrade an EMR system for a fraction of the actual cost, physicians continue to cite acquisition cost as their highest concern, according to the study. “Technical support, maintenance costs, and training are a few of the issues donating entities should take into consideration when designing a donation program (under Stark Relaxation),” said Raymer.
Also interesting were physicians’ responses when asked about their preferred donating entities. Respondents significantly preferred to receive an EMR donation from a local hospital or integrated delivery network rather than from an insurance company, regional health information organization (RHIO), EMR vendor or pharmaceutical company. In addition, most physicians were willing to have the EMR hosted on a hospital’s server. Such a hosted option can reduce ongoing support costs and eliminates the physicians’ need to acquire additional hardware, which cannot be donated under the new rules. However, EMR hosting raises serious concerns for physicians about their relationship with the donating entity and physicians’ access to their own data.
“The majority of physicians are unwilling to share financial data with the hospital,” said Raymer. “Hospitals offering independent systems will likely, therefore, offer a substantial advantage.”
Finally, the study addressed the attractiveness of standalone e-prescribing systems as an incremental approach to IT adoption versus integrated e-prescribing EMR systems. Sixty-one percent of physicians do not see e-prescribing as a viable “first step” toward implementing an EMR system. Physicians believe that an integrated EMR and e-prescribing system would minimize the disruption caused by implementing new workflows.
“There are clearly some issues and concerns that still need to be addressed by donating entities when considering Stark Relaxation,” said Raymer. “We look forward to the opportunity to help our customers leverage these new policies to adopt critical information technology that can eventually transform the way healthcare is delivered.”
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