Physician practice software needs still booming

medicalBIZMOLOGY — More than half of US physicians are now using electronic health records (EHRs), up from 17% five years ago, according to a report issued by the Health and Human Services (HHS) department.

Though some providers still voice objections, such as impersonal doctor’s visits and imperfect records systems, more than 290,000 doctors — or 55% of offices eligible for federal incentives — have integrated EHRs into their practices since a federal incentive program was put into place (through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA) in 2009.

Physicians have received $5.9 billion in incentive payments from the US government upon showing meaningful use of the systems, such as recording patient visits and writing electronic prescriptions. More than 3,800 hospitals (or about 80% of eligible US facilities) have also switched to EHRs and received $8.7 billion in federal funding. These statistics exceed the HHS department’s goals for 2013, marking the program a success in the eyes of the Obama administration.

In addition to implementation incentives, the systems are designed to benefit medical care providers by eventually lowering their overall operating costs while increasing quality of care.

The HITECH portion of the ARRA provides a bounty of opportunities for tech firms offering health care management software. Leading the pack are providers Epic Systems, Allscripts, eClinicalWorks, NextGen, and GE Healthcare. Many more EHR options are available, as evidenced by the Defense Department’s recent announcement that it will select a provider for its health record software needs from a field of about 20 qualified companies.

In addition, bumpy implementation and adjustment processes leave room for consulting and management firms to reap profits from services provided to physician practices.

These needs will continue to rise, as the federal government is encouraging the remaining 45% of US physicians to adopt EHRs by 2015. Those who don’t could receive lower reimbursements for care.

The HHS is also encouraging physicians to step up use of existing EHR systems to include information sharing among locations and sending alerts and health summaries to patients.

So while physicians will continue to place orders for tongue depressors and exam gloves, advances in practice management software will continue to reduce the need for paper clips and file folders over the next few years.

Anne Law

Anne Law has been a member of the D&B editorial department for more than a decade, providing content for the Hoover's and First Research products. She currently covers the health care and insurance industries for First Research. For industry news, follow Anne on Twitter.

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