Physicians support stimulus package initiatives, Allscripts survey shows

Results of a nationwide survey of healthcare providers released Monday by Allscripts shows that physician groups support measures in the economic stimulus package that provide federal loans, grants and incentives to promote broader adoption of health information technology.

The survey of 1,888 physicians, medical group executives and staff reveals a consensus among medical groups that funding is critical, with 82 percent of respondents strongly agreeing that the government should provide funding for electronic health records in the economic stimulus package.

The survey also confirms that existing incentive programs managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that are designed to encourage hospitals to donate EHRs to physicians and to spur adoption of electronic prescribing have been effective.

Though respondents agreed that federal funding is needed for healthcare IT adoption, they were split on how funding could best be used, with some supporting grants toward the purchase of EHRs and others in favor of incentives to encourage EHR adoption.

The House passed an $819 billion economic stimulus bill Jan. 28 that includes $20 billion for healthcare IT and policy changes that are expected to result in $30 billion in net incentives for providers who adopt and use certified healthcare IT products over the next 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office scoring of the bill.

The bill includes $2 billion for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to use at its discretion, which experts surmise may include grants for providers to purchase healthcare IT. The Senate is currently at work on its version of the bill.

Glen Tullman, chief executive officer of Allscripts, said the results of the survey confirm the company's view that providing physicians with the incentives to invest in and use electronic health records is "the single most important action" Congress can take to improve the quality, enhance safety and lower the cost of healthcare in America.

"A critical point is that physician practices of different sizes and technical maturities have different needs," Tullman said.

For example, respondent Cathie Lentz, practice administrator at Elmwood Center Medical Associates in York, Pa. agreed EHR adoption is "the only answer" for improved and more efficient medical care. "Unfortunately the cost is out of reach for most physician offices," she said.

Jeffrey Johnson, MD, Medical Director of Central Utah Clinic, in Provo, Utah and a former Microsoft Health Users Group Physician of the Year award winner, said Congress should reward physicians who already use healthcare IT. "A program that only rewards new purchasers of EHRs is quite unfair to those who have already taken the plunge and paid for the systems themselves," Johnson said.

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