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Local doctors encouraged to use e-records
by Janine Kearney
Mar 12, 2008 | 625 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> Many older people like Spanish Springs neighbors Elllie Hays, 73, and Lola Cook, 74, do not like the idea of having electronic medical records for privacy reasons.
Tribune/Debra Reid Many older people like Spanish Springs neighbors Elllie Hays, 73, and Lola Cook, 74, do not like the idea of having electronic medical records for privacy reasons.
The head of Medicare encouraged Nevada doctors to use electronic patient files and said that participation in a pilot program could bring cash incentives and improved health care.

Kerry Weems, the acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, met with Nevada health care leaders at the University of Nevada, Reno’s medical school on Wednesday.

Two local doctors who attended the meeting said they are already using electronic filing systems to manage patient medical files, request lab tests and manage their billing systems.

However, several local medical leaders made it clear that switching to electronic filing involves a complete change to the way doctors function, and can cause severe, but temporary, headaches.

The system has the potential to decrease efficiency during training and create tension for doctors who are set in their ways or are not tech-savvy, according to Weems. The system is also costly, ranging between $25,000 and $100,000 to install.

Some patients are also concerned that the portability of their electronic medical records could result in identity theft and a breach in personal privacy rights. However, patient privacy protocol does not change with a change in filing systems, experts noted.

Long-term benefits outweigh the initial pain and frustration for doctors, Weems said. The electronic filing systems result in increased efficiency, more time spent with each patient, accurate and portable records and more consistent quality health care.

Applicants to the Medicare incentive program must apply as a community, consisting of about 200 primary care doctors who own a private practice or belong to a group medical practice. Since there are just over 400 primary care practices in Nevada, physicians from throughout the state could apply as a “community.”

The deadline to apply is about two months away. Then Medicare will select 12 communities in which the pilot program will monitor and test the efficiency and accuracy of electronic filing systems used in 1,200 doctors offices. A test group of 1,200 other offices will leave their systems as they are for as long as they choose.

The pilot program targets the switching of Medicare and Medicaid patients to electronic files.

“There are around 56,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the Reno area,” said Charlotte Yeh, Regional Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

However, participating medical practices would switch their entire filing systems, which would benefit all of their patients.

As a result, entire communities would benefit because many electronic filing systems are compatible with other electronic filing systems, Weems said.

“This effort will help reduce errors and improve health outcomes for an estimated 3.6 million Americans,” Weems said.

For more information, visit: or www.hhsgov/healthit

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