Ohio Leads Nation in Physician Sign-Ups for EHRs

Through the Ohio Health Information Partnership, 5,760 Ohio physicians and healthcare professionals have committed to using electronic health records (EHRs) in their practices, clinics and hospitals – the highest of any state in the nation.

In celebratory comments at a national meeting in Washington, D.C. last week, Farzad Mostashari, MD, SCM, the national coordinator for health information technology, announced that 100,000 primary care providers are building the foundation for a fully-electronic healthcare system throughout the nation, representing one-third of the potential pool of physicians and other healthcare providers eligible for the federal program. 

 “This is an enormous milestone for America’s healthcare providers,” Dr. Mostashari announced to an audience of 1,200 people directly involved in HIT across the country. “EHR-enabled providers are taking the first steps in transforming healthcare in the U.S., enhancing the safety and quality of care for patients. We would not have been able to accomplish this without the hard work of regional extension centers across the country.”

 Ohio’s Progress

Dan Paoletti, chief executive officer of the Ohio Health Information Partnership, part of the network of 62 Health IT regional extension centers nationally, said the grass-roots, regional work of seven partners led to Ohio’s placement as No. 1 in the country. New Jersey is second in the nation with 5,094 physicians signed up, surpassing its goal of 5,000.

“This is the first step toward our goal of saving time, money, and lives through an electronic network that will improve health care for all Ohioans,” Paoletti said. “We commend all of the Ohio physicians who have chosen to switch from paper to electronic health records or to upgrade their existing systems. You’ve made Ohio proud.”

 The Ohio Health Information Partnership alone has successfully signed 5.8 percent of the entire total of primary care providers now committed to adopting electronic health records. The goal set by the federal program is for the Ohio Health Information Partnership to sign up 6,000 physicians by January, Paoletti said.

Alongside this goal, the Tri-State Regional Extension Center under HealthBridge in Cincinnati has signed up 985 Ohio physicians to its program, pushing Ohio’s figures up to 6,745 physicians committed to or actually using electronic health records.

Regional Extension Center Successes

The federal regional extension program targets primary care physicians and healthcare professionals – family physicians, internists, obstetricians and gynecologists, pediatricians and nurse practitioners -- because they are often a patient’s first point of contact when a health problem arises. Especially in rural and underserved areas – from Appalachia to Ohio’s urban centers – these physicians often can’t afford to install an electronic health record system.

Dr. James Johns, a family practitioner at Little Flower Family Practice in Canton, went through the regional extension center process over the past year and now has a fully-functioning EHR system in place.  Dr. Johns follows the “medical home” concept, where he sees himself as the hub of a patient’s care, but on paper, the data collected is too difficult to handle manually.

“I feel that in becoming a medical home, having a good electronic medical system can assimilate and organize all that data. What I’m hopeful for is that by having a good system that keeps track of this large amount of information, it will allow me the freedom to be a doctor again,” Dr. Johns said. “I want to spend more quality time with my patients. If the medical home is done right, it brings what we’ve tried to do for the last 25 years into current technologies.”

Ohio’s regional extension centers provide  free services to eligible physicians and healthcare professionals to help them get their staffs ready for the changes that occur in an office when it switches from paper to electronics and to select the right vendor for their needs. Often, this process can be complex and difficult, and consultants make it easier to make the right choices. These consultants also assist specialists, such as cardiologists, at a low cost.

 Meaningful Use

In addition, consultants assist doctors in reaching a set of specific federal requirements to help them meaningfully use those systems, such as e-prescribing and reporting on certain clinical quality measures like immunizations. Physicians also can track trends within their own practices, looking at how well they’re providing care to diabetic or asthmatic patients, as an example.

In turn, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will pay $44,000 to eligible healthcare professionals with Medicare patients and $63,750 for those with Medicaid patients over time when they report about their use of electronic health records. These incentives extend to other kinds of physicians, nurses and specialists, such as dentists and ophthalmologists.  Physicians who do not sign up for an electronic system will be penalized with lesser payments, starting in 2014.

Dr. Robert Landes of Piqua Family Practice already had his system in place, and now has received $18,000 in federal Medicare incentive money. His practice would never go back to paper records, he said.

“It makes it faster to find the records. We don’t have people spending hours looking for charts. We can find the information that’s in the computer quicker,” Dr. Landes said. In addition, his billing and insurance processes work more efficiently and faster. And, through a patient portal, his patients get their lab results just as quickly as he does. He can e-prescribe a prescription so fast that it’s at the pharmacy before the patient ever leaves his office.

 For Dr. Allen Ferguson of Preble County Family Medical Center, the experience of adopting an EHR system took place six years ago, when the technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today. Because he started earlier, he also received one of the first Medicare incentive payments in June -- $18,000 – for his use of the EHR system.

 While he and his staff have adapted well to the use of the electronic system, there’s no hospital in Preble County, and he longs for the day when the EHR system he’s invested in connects with other EHR systems.

 “If a patient comes in here complaining about chest pain, I have to do an EKG even if they got one at the ER two days ago,” Dr. Ferguson said. “It’s my job as a doctor to do the test since I can’t see the ER’s test.” He believes the exchange of health information among doctors, hospitals and other healthcare professionals will make the delivery of health care better for both physicians and patients.

 CliniSync Health Information Exchange

In addition to using these EHRs, physicians will be expected to exchange information with one another as part of the meaningful use requirement. The Ohio Health Information Partnership has developed an infrastructure for a state-wide health information exchange to assist with this requirement. 

 Called CliniSync, this exchange ultimately will connect hospitals, health systems, physicians and other healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care.  With patients’ permission, the exchange will allow participating organizations to access records through a secure network in real time. Right now, CliniSync testing and implementation is occurring in the Lima area, with hospitals and physicians beginning to connect with one another.

 

Dr. Brian Bachelder, a family practitioner who serves on the Ohio Health Information Partnership’s board of directors, said physicians are showing a strong commitment to patients when they choose this advanced technology.

 “A physician can go from giving good care to great care, just by organizing the patient’s information. The more your doctor knows about you, the better the care provided,” Dr. Bachelder said.

“Now, multiply that by hundreds when we link all of your care together through our statewide health information exchange, CliniSync. More information, giving better care in seconds – now that’s powerful. You sure can’t do that on paper,” he said.

About the Ohio Health Information Partnership

The Ohio Health Information Partnership is a non-profit, state-designated entity responsible for establishing regional extension centers to assist physicians and hospitals with information technology and for creating the infrastructure for a health information exchange in the state. Ohio has received $44,146,199 in federal funding including $14, 872,199 for the health information exchange, $28.5 for regional extension centers and $774,000 for critical access hospitals. 

The State of Ohio contributed $8 million when The Partnership first formed. The partnership includes the Ohio State Medical Association, Ohio Osteopathic Association, Ohio Hospital Association, BioOhio and the State of Ohio. The partnership is funded through the Office of the National Coordinator, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, grant numbers 90RC0012 and 90HT0024.

For more information about the Ohio Health Information Partnership, go to www.CliniSync.org

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