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Study: Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) cite cost as a barrier in adopting EHR systems

Joint AOA/MGMA research gauges D.O.s EHR use, barriers and attitudes

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Aug. 14, 2007 – Joint research recently released by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Center for Research titled “Assessing Electronic Health Record Use by Members of the American Osteopathic Association” indicates that the cost to purchase and implement an electronic health record (EHR) system prevents some osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) from using them in their practices.

The study shows larger medical groups (51 or more full-time physicians) tend to have more funds available for information technology investment, and adopt EHRs at a rate of 55.1 percent. The adoption of EHR is proceeding in larger practices. Solo physician practices with an EHR system, however, reported only a 25 percent adoption rate. Study participants rated “lack of capital resources to invest in an EHR” as a primary barrier to implementing EHR in their practices. Researchers found that the median EHR purchase and implementation cost was $20,000 per physician, with an additional $250 per month per physician for maintenance.

Of those that had moved to an EHR, nearly 90 percent said they would not go back to paper medical records. Among AOA members, “improved access to medical record information” ranked highest as a potential benefit to their medical practices. Other high-ranking benefits with more direct impact on practice financials were “improved accuracy for coding evaluation and management procedures” and “improved charge capture.”

“Electronic health records can help improve quality of patient care,” said AOA President Peter B. Ajluni, D.O. “This study gives the AOA insight into the barriers D.O.s face in implementing electronic health records and what we as an organization can do to help our members overcome these barriers.” 

Ajluni added the AOA passed a policy in 2005 that supports physicians in implementing health care technology, including EHRs.

The research also supports the assertion that while these systems can be costly to purchase and implement, they can lower practice costs. Of those with systems, 22.3 percent said their practice costs had decreased – but an almost identical percentage of D.O.s (22 percent) claimed practice costs had increased;  the remaining 36 percent were unaware of the  impact their EHR had on practice costs. The study further indicates that 31 percent of D.O.s have an electronic health record (EHR) in their practice.

MGMA conducted the study of AOA members in spring 2006. While the D.O.s who responded were primarily in smaller single-specialty or solo practices,  sufficient respondents came from large practices to allow researchers to understand how EHRs affect practices of all sizes and specialties.

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About MGMA 

MGMA, founded in 1926, is the nation’s principal voice for medical group practice. MGMA’s nearly 21,000 members manage and lead 12,500 organizations, in which almost 270,000 physicians practice. MGMA’s core purpose is to improve the effectiveness of medical group practices and the knowledge and skills of the individuals who manage and lead them. MGMA headquarters are in Englewood, Colo. 

About AOA 

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 61,000 osteopathic physicians (D.O.s); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for D.O.s; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical colleges; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. 

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