ARLINGTON, TX – Small physician practices and niche healthcare providers are facing a cruel conundrum these days: They want and need an electronic medical record, but they don’t have the money or resources to implement one.
“Everyone loves it and needs it, but no one wants to write a check,” said Brian P. Woods, MD, chief medical officer of NorthStar Anesthesia, an Arlington, Texas-based provider of anesthesiologists and anesthesia management services to 34 hospitals and surgery centers in Texas, Ohio and Tennessee. “So we needed a solution that we could deploy without hospital funding and which is simple and intuitive.”
NorthStar turned to Shareable Ink, a Nashville-based document management provider that uses digital pen and paper technology to help providers transition from paper-based systems to EMRs. Woods said Shareable Ink’s platform – which NorthStar helped to beta test and which will be in use by some 250 employees by June 1 – is an ideal bridge-gap solution to a full-fledged EMR, and that’s fine for smaller practices and physicians looking to make a gradual and cost-effective transition.
Woods calls the anesthesia marketplace “kind of the final frontier for EMRs,” in that anesthesia information management systems are generally expensive (costing some $30,000 per OR installation) and therefore out of the price range of many providers. Studies indicate less than 10 percent of the anesthesia market has purchased an EMR, with an even smaller amount using them intraoperatively.
The importance of proper document management can’t be overstated. Mistakes in charting can lead to clinical errors, causing injury or even death, and coding and billing errors, which create unnecessary billing problems for both the patient and the provider. According to Shareable Ink, one large customer of more than 1,000 physicians has indicated that one charge lag costs the company $1 million per day.
That makes Huguely Memorial Medical Center, a 213-bed acute care hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, that’s part of the NorthStar system, a good case model. HMMC recently deployed Shareable Ink’s Anesthesia Record and, according to Woods and hospital officials, has seen a large improvement in first-pass admissions, thus reducing manual errors, paper-scanning and resubmitted claims.
“The Shareable Ink Anesthesia Record gives us the opportunity for 100 percent automated chart review of all anesthesia quality metrics, including the Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) measures that we report to CMS,” said Tammy Collier, HMMC’s senior vice president of patient care services. “Even better, the Shareable Ink approach proactively improves compliance by providing clinicians with immediate feedback during the documentation process, and that helps promote complete records.”
That’s music to the ears of Stephen S. Hau, the CEO and president of Shareable Ink. Hau started the company some two years ago after founding Patientkeeper and has recently overseen the company’s move from Boston to Nashville to accommodate growth and funding opportunities.
He said the market is right for a quick and easy digital platform that can help physicians and other providers accurately capture information – which then leads to improved clinical outcomes and proper claims submission and reimbursement.
“I’ve seen nurses writing important information on Post-It notes … and doctors writing on their latex gloves,” he said. “They’re on the go and in a hurry, doing what they’ve been doing for the last 20 or 30 years at a time when the demands are much harder.”
Hau cites studies indicating a productivity drop of 10 percent to 40 percent among physician practices implementing EMRs, and said the challenge lies in not changing a physician’s workflow. As the nation’s healthcare system moves away from pay-for-performance and toward accountable care, he said, the pressure will increase to get the data right the first time, avoiding errors that string out the care delivery and billing process and cost time and money.