EMR transition protected by new legislation

Even though the government has incentivized the conversion to EMR, compliance among healthcare providers is still hovering at around 50 percent.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid offer up to $44,000 over a five-year period to healthcare providers that begin transitioning to EMR before 2012. Penalties for non-compliance begin in 2014, so it is in the best interests for healthcare providers to begin the onerous transitioning process as soon as possible.

As of 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about half of healthcare providers have transitioned to EMR. There is still room for massive improvements in the next several years. The reasons for non-compliance range from providers not understanding the technology to being comfortable with paper records to fear of lawsuits resulting from leaked information.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa, has introduced legislation that would address the latter concern.

"Many providers are reluctant to use electronic records because they believe the practice will make them more vulnerable to unnecessary legal action," Marino said in a press release. "Every time a doctor or hospital chooses not to participate because of these fears, our seniors lose another provider. This protects access for seniors in the Medicare and Medicaid programs."

The goal of EMR should be to provide more direct care to patients, which Marino thinks his bill promotes, but EMR should also diminish healthcare costs as information becomes easier to share.

One aspect of EMR that frightens away healthcare providers is the unfamiliarity with the technology. Most electronic medical software makes it easy for the provider to implement EMR and electronic billing on one platform. Some companies, understanding that implementation is difficult, will even install the platform for the healthcare provider, which can connect them to top programs from companies like Allscripts and Medisoft.