EMR Conferences Clarify Confusing Issue for Doctors

HADLEY — Western Mass. doctors and other medical professionals are facing a new era of practicing medicine. Amid the talk of national health care reform, Gov. Deval Patrick wants Massachusetts to continue to be a leader in reform by encouraging and ultimately requiring that practicing doctors in the Commonwealth replace traditional paper charts with electronic medical records.

This concept is catching on nationally as well. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, two programs — one through Medicare and one through Medicaid — were designed to help facilitate this transition across the entire country. These programs ultimately facilitate $19 billion in financial incentives and assistance to help medical offices go electronic.

On July 22 at the Marriott in Hadley, about 50 local doctors gathered to hear presentations from various vendors and experts regarding the shift to electronic medical records. Delcie Bean of Valley ComputerWorks described what it means to be an EMR implementation specialist and how his firm is helping practices from all across the county to make this transition, walking them through the entire process from beginning to end, and assisting them with tasks like applying for stimulus money.

A second conference followed at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on September 9. This conference again allowed doctors and medical professionals to hear the experiences of medical offices who were early adopters of this technology, learn about the vendors and programs that are available to them as resources for facilitating the transition, and learn about the financial incentives and penalties associated with going electronic.

During these conferences, doctors are hearing about what is actually going on in the industry — a welcome change from the vendor-driven information that they are used to. Many doctors learned for the first time that their practice may qualify for as much as $63,750 per doctor in stimulus reimbursement to help cover their costs of going electronic, while other doctors were surprised to hear that if they do not adopt an electronic system by 2015, they will actually be financially penalized by Medicare.

In addition to emrconference.com, a Web site containing information pertaining to what is going on in the electronic medical world, doctors were introduced to a new site, emrforum.org, an open forum that allows doctors to share their experiences, rate vendors, and support each other through the complex transition.

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