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Physician Reports Impact Of Electronic Health Record On Patient Safety

Physician Reports Impact Of Electronic Health Record On Patient Safety | Healthcare and Technology news |

Physicians who adopt electronic health record report EHR has improved the safety and quality of their office-based care


At the end of each day, every physician asks themselves two questions:


  • “Was there something I did today that I shouldn’t have?”


  • “Is there something I didn’t do that I should have?”


We can now see from the 2013 National Ambulatory Medical Care Physician Workflow Survey (NAMCS) that the answers to those questions weigh lighter on the minds of practicing physicians who have the help of electronic health records (EHR).


Through this annual survey of 11,000 physicians we get a snapshot of how EHR adoption has improved the safety and quality of their office-based care.  The details of the survey are published in an ONC data brief; and the larger contours of the perceived impact of electronic health records are clear: physicians feel that EHRs improve the quality and safety of the care they deliver.  From these data we can see that about 70 percent of physicians answering the survey felt that their EHR helped by alerting them of an important medication or a laboratory test result.



EHRs improve communications


As the practice of medicine becomes more complex, practice tools should help providers manage that complexity. The NAMCS survey finds that electronic health records are helping to improve communication between physicians and members of their care teams.  Nearly 60 percent of physicians using EHRs reported that their system facilitated communication among the care team and roughly one-half of them found that it improved the management of referrals.


Not unexpectedly, physicians in large practices (11 physicians or more) experienced slightly greater improvement in communication across the care team, compared to those in solo practices.


However, no practice tool is a panacea, and when looking at electronic records we also see that 40 percent of physicians felt the EHR led to a less effective communication with their patients during a visit, 15 percent felt the EHR led to an error in ordering a medication or test, and about 15 percent identified too many alerts as the reason they overlooked something important.



EHRs can improve patient safety


The net result of how physicians perceive the effects of electronic records on crucial processes of care within their practice is overwhelmingly positive.  This fact provides us with the support we need as we work toward the two goals of health IT safety articulated in the ONC Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan: to improve the safe use of health IT and to improve the overall safety and quality of care delivered through the use of health IT.

Those of us who have worked in any of the domains of safety — health care patient safety, nuclear safety, or aerospace safety — know safety is a journey and not a destination.


This NAMCS survey shows that electronic health records are tools that make the path toward patient safety easier for all of us who, after the day’s journey, soberly reflect on the answers to two very important questions: “Was there something I did today that I shouldn’t have?” and “Is there something I didn’t do that I should have?”


We all share a responsibility to try to answer these questions better today than we did yesterday.  And the good news is that we can meet that responsibility with confidence whether ordering medications and labs, communicating with our colleagues, or remembering important aspects of care, as the EHR is helping us to make that care better.

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Practices Should Prepare for Payer Consolidation

Practices Should Prepare for Payer Consolidation | Healthcare and Technology news |

We live in a very exciting time in the healthcare industry. Regardless of how you feel or think about decisions that are made on the government level, healthcare is in a period of controlled chaos right now.

With the potential merger of Anthem and Cigna and Aetna and Humana, or Assurant closing its doors on its health insurance business, things are about to get really interesting for medical practices. Arming yourself with as much information as possible is key to not just surviving financially, but thriving in this new environment.

Let's take Assurant, for example. They've decided that doing business in the healthcare arena and competing against the dominant healthcare insurance companies was far more expensive than expected. What does this mean for your practice? If you have patients that use Assurant as their medical insurance, it's a great idea to step in and take control of those accounts, now. Create a waiver for Assurant patients that explains what is going on, what to expect from their plan, and how they can still see you with a new insurance plan. The waiver should also state that in the event Assurant does not pay the medical claim, patients will be responsible for the allowed amount, and they will have to pay out of pocket if it is a PPO Plan. If the plan is an HMO, and Assurant does not pay, the practice is not allowed to place a PR (patient responsibility) to the patient and will lose that money.

Aetna and Assurant have similar fee schedules, so suggest to your patients to look into individual Aetna plans, to ensure that you will retain those patients and not lose revenue if you are contracted with Aetna. You will also need to really follow up with those claims and make sure that Assurant is paying you. I have seen them use a delaying tactic of denying a claim with the code CO95 (plan procedures not followed), which basically means they are sending your claim to a different claim address than what was provided to you at the time of benefit verification.  

As far as the pending mergers, I really love it when this happens. I'm particularly fond of the companies that have been courting each other lately. With the possible Aetna/Humana merger, Aetna will be able to add a lot more patients to their network. It will position them as a real player and earn them much needed respect within the market. I still have some overall issues with both Aetna and Humana, but merging them together should ease some of those issues.

The Anthem/Cigna cat-and-mouse game going on is particularly interesting. Cigna claims they're worth more than $184/share, and said no to Anthem's last purchase attempt. But Anthem is not giving up. Cigna used to be a premium plan until they teamed up with American Specialty Health. They have basically cut reimbursements to providers in half (if you signed up under their new network, otherwise you are seeing Cigna patients out of network), and implemented a time-consuming authorization process that eats away at whatever profit your practice may have left over from the reimbursement cuts. They implemented this over the course of the last year, or so. Working with Anthem is pretty cut and dried: What you see is what you get, with no hidden agendas. Anthem requires few to no pre-authorizations, allowing you to see your patient and maybe make a few bucks.

Just taking a few moments and reading up on what is going on in the healthcare industry today is really key to insuring your practice is not caught off guard. Always be learning, always be aware. There are multiple newsletters you can sign up for that will drop a daily or weekly e-mail into your inbox that will help you keep up.

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