EHR: The Sooner the Better

As full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act looms only seven months away, many optometrists have taken a first step toward participating by installing electronic health records (EHRs) in their practices. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as of April, 12,087 optometrists have registered for the Medicare EHR incentive program, and 8,204 optometrists have received incentive payments totaling $145,030,796.

After overcoming obstacles that impede implementing EHR, several of the ODs honored in this issue cited initial hurdles and eventual benefits realized by implementing EHR.

“Implementing a new EHR system several years ago was a big obstacle with a major payoff,” Eric Botts, OD, practicing in Macomb, Ill., told VM. “Initially, it slowed us down by about 30 percent, resulting in fewer patients seen each day at a slower pace. However, once we were able to learn the system, the benefits were great. No more lost files, all patient data was only a few keystrokes away, and the meaningful-use incentive payments are offsetting the investment in computer hardware and software.”

In the case of Ralph Handly, OD, of EYE-Q Vision Care in Fresno, Calif., a negative resulting from instituting EHR was overcome with yet more technology. “The progression into EHRs has been much greater than we expected,” he said. “One of the concerns has been the loss of visual contact. Our providers were concentrating on completing the electronic record and were not facing the patient. Each provider now works with a mobile device that allows them to face the patient directly.”

These examples point toward a future where electronic health records are the norm, and the sooner they are implemented, the sooner the benefits will be realized. ■