You may be in the golden years of your medical career (if you have planned well and are financially secure enough to retire anytime soon), so should you get on the bandwagon and implement an EHR? This is a question that many physicians face as they near the end of their practice days. If you have a couple of years to go, should you make the effort? What if you are in the final year of your practice? Why not just put your files into storage and deal with the requests for records on an as-needed basis? Sounds simpler, right?
Actually nothing these days is simple, and there are a number of compelling reasons to implement an EHR in your practice before retirement.
- Patient safety: over many years one accumulates a great deal of information, reports, lab results, etc. Implementing an EHR is a very good opportunity to summarize the face sheet in your charts and do a careful review of your patients before entering the data into the EHR. While this process generally happens during the yearly physical, there are patients that fall through the cracks and implementing an EHR provides a good opportunity to get current with your patient’s problem lists and medications. There are also immediate benefits in reducing the number of duplicate tests and investigations because the information is more easily accessible.
- If you plan to sell your practice to a larger group in your community and still have 3+ years of practice ahead, do some research on the EHR that they are using and select the same system to implement. The Meaningful Use incentive program will compensate you for a significant part of your EHR implementation costs; however, before you get the money, you have to meet the meaningful use requirements and this generally takes some time, particularly if you are converting from a paper practice to an EHR. You must also ensure that the EHR system you intend to implement is certified for Meaningful Use.
- If you are in the last year of practice and are unable to find a group to purchase or take over your practice, you may have little alternative but to store your charts. Chart storage is expensive and it is a significant amount of effort to find, package, and send out charts as they are requested. If you decide to go down this pathway, there are companies that provide chart storage and will scan your paper records for easier retrieval.
- If you are planning on working part-time after retirement, you will likely be working with an EHR. As a result, it is good practice to hone your computer skills and get up to speed on electronic health records. You may be fearful of computers and feel that they will interfere with the patient encounter; however, many patients now expect your practice to be computerized and are surprised when you are still using paper charts.
- If your practice has aged with you, you likely have a predominance of older patients with concomitant co-morbid disease. EHRs are great for the management of chronic diseases and will allow you take better care of your Diabetics and other patients with other chronic conditions. If you have a slick system in place for reminders — and are able to take advantage of incentive payments and also avoid penalties for E-Prescribing and Meaningful Use — there may be a good business case to implement an EHR even if you are close to retirement.
This list of benefits is by no means comprehensive, but these are good reasons to implement an EHR in your pre-retirement years. There is nothing better than being able to leave your practice in the capable hands of colleagues who will look after your patients with good quality information at their fingertips. Sure beats trying to sift through a two-inch thick paper chart.
Have you implemented an EHR in the last few years of practice? Was it a good decision or do you regret not sticking with your paper-based practice? Add your comments or feedback.