Big Plans for Small Practices
Several days ago the New York Times featured an article titled “How to Make Electronic Medical Records a Reality.” EHRs and their challenges have become a popular topic in the mainstream media. Maybe that’s what a couple billion dollars of federal money will do for a topic that’s been scuffing along.
The Times piece nicely highlights the challenge of implementing health IT in small physician practices, a primary healthcare target in the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA.
“There’s no way small practices can effectively implement electronic health records on their own,” says Dr. Farzad Mostashari in the article. “This is not the iPhone.”
Mostashari heads New York City’s Primary Care Information Project, which helps small practices implement health IT. Their technical support and educational services are similar to those that ARRA seems to envision for regional health IT “extension agencies.”
HIM professionals aren’t well known to many small physician practices, in part because the information management needs—and budgets—of small practices haven’t been great enough. But EHRs and ARRA may change that, since HIM professionals offer the kind of skills that can help small practices plan, implement, and manage their health IT systems.
In particular, HIM professionals can help on the front end, assessing needs and practices and redesigning workflows. They bring compliance backgrounds to IT systems, especially related to maintaining legally sound electronic records, and a focus on designing for, and managing, data integrity.