Medicare Doctors Go Digital; LTPAC Providers Should do the Same, Says HIT Expert

| July 11, 2012

A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 57% of Medicare physicians used an electronic health record (EHR) system in 2011. A respected technology consultant suggests that long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) providers should do the same.

More than half (57%) of Medicare physicians used an electronic health record (EHR) system at their primary practice location in 2011, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). One health information technology (HIT) expert suggests that long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) providers should do the same – and soon.

GAO Findings

After surveying 2,000 physicians who participated in Medicare during 2011, the GAO found that:

  • Most (90%) of the physicians in its sample used their EHR systems to document evaluation and management (E/M) services, which are visits to assess and manage a patient’s health. 
  • 22% of physicians first began using EHR systems to document E/M services in 2011, the year that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched its EHR incentive program. 
  • 3 out of every 4 Medicare physicians with an EHR system used a certified system to document E/M services. Overall, physicians used more than 135 different EHR systems from more than 110 vendors. 
  • Most (88%) Medicare physicians manually assigned E/M codes to services, even though many EHR systems can assist physicians in carrying out this task. The remaining 12% had staff members manually assign codes. 

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) requested the report in connection with an ongoing GAO evaluation of EHR-related documentation vulnerabilities associated with E/M services. 

The GAO also forwarded a copy of its report to CMS because the agency “may find this information helpful as it continues administering its EHR incentive program.” 

EHRs in LTPAC Settings

LTPAC providers aren't eligible for federal EHR incentives. But Dr. Bill Russell, an HIT consultant speaking at June’s LTPAC HIT Summit in Baltimore, urged providers to pursue EHR adoption. Russell suggested that Stage 2 “meaningful use” requirements associated with the EHR incentive program will make it necessary for eligible hospitals to exchange electronic clinical summaries with LTPAC providers. Establishing interoperability now would help providers facilitate better transitions of care, he said.

According to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Russell and other technology experts at the Summit maintained that EHRs can help LTPAC providers:

  • Participate in payment reform initiatives.
  • Generate summary of care records for each transition.
  • Electronically track medications.