The US govt is spending a huge amount of money to encourage doctors to use EMRs, in the hope that this will help to reduce healthcare costs. However, most doctors are quite suspicious of the whole deal. This is quite natural. After all, governments know very little about how to care for patients - and a lot of these government - sponsored incentives end up backfiring and creating a lot of additional work and heartburn for doctors.
Rather than take this top-down Big Brother approach ( which failed so miserably in the UK), I'd like to suggest a simpler alternative. Of the 40000 odd dollars which the government is willing to gift each medical practise which starts using an EMR, I'd suggest they give doctors some money ( as little as US $ 500 ) to set up their own personal website. This would create a win-win situation - at a much smaller expense. Let me explain.
Most doctors are still unsure as to how an EMR can help them ( and there are enough horror stories around about how badly designed EMRs can actually disrupt workflow and reduce productivity !) . However, every doctor can see the value of having their own website. It helps them to improve their efficiency and to market their practise. The trouble is that most doctors do not know how to go about setting up their own website - and commercial website designers in the USA charge an arm and a leg for designing websites . Since doctors are not sure whether such a large investment would be cost effective, they are understandably reluctant to spend this money.
However, if the US government mandated websites for all US doctors, this could be done very inexpensively ! Not only would doctors be happy, their patients would be far happier. If all US doctors had their own website, it would be much easier for patients to search for the right doctor; get reliable information directly from their doctor; and this would also allow them to get in touch with their doctor much more easily !
But how does giving doctors a website encourage them to use an EMR ? Once doctors are online, their patients will communicate with them electronically. Initially, this will be by email ( though this will soon evolve to a secure messaging platform integrated with the EMR) . Doctors will need instant access to the patient's medical record in order to be able to answer the email intelligently, so they will be happy to invest in an EMR - to improve their productivity !
It's only when doctors are convinced that an EMR will help them to take better care of their patients that they will start adopting them ! Even better, once they are convinced, they will do so on their own , and the government will not have to give them a financial incentive for this ! Doctors are smart - and if an EMR helps them to improve their productivity, they will happily use them as efficiency tools ! Remember that the government did not have to provide an incentive to doctors to get them to use telephones in their offices.
Online doctors like me who have their own website can see the value of having an EMR every time we communicate with our patients - and this is something our patients appreciate as well !
I asked Nrip Nihalani, CEO of Plus91 ( in which I am an angel investor) for his opinion. This is what he had to say.
• When doctors get a website, they start using their computer more often
• Once they get a website, many doctors also start feeling like they need to learn more about technology, computers and the internet.
• Doctors with websites, eventually start creating content for it, using word and PowerPoint.( Over 60 % of the doctors for whom Plus91 has created websites have done so .
Over 75% of doctors who once shied away from EMRs became much more receptive to buying one in just 6 months after having their own website .
• 21 % of the doctors, who bought a website, ordered an EMR/Practice Management Solution within 6 months
• Websites help doctors understand the value of a patient centric model, and the best way to deal with patients who demand speed, quick access to reports, constant attention by the doctors is to deploy an EMR/EHR solution. Doctors with websites seem to learn this faster !