Potential Effects of the Electronic Health Record on the Small Physician Practice: A Delphi Study
Originally Published In
Perspectives in Health Information Management
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act established the requirement of all medical practices to have certified electronic health records (EHRs). Some primary concerns that have been delaying implementation are issues of cost, revenue impact, and the effect on the patient encounter. Small physician practices (one to four physicians) account for 46 percent of all physicians. The purpose of this qualitative study using a modified Delphi research design was to examine the potential effect of the adoption of the EHR on revenue, unintended costs or savings, and changes in the patient encounter. Fifteen expert panelists completed the three-round survey process. The expert panelists reached a consensus that EHRs would reduce the number of patients seen per day, thereby reducing their revenue. Although the panelists limited their discussion on the effect of patient outcomes, their most dominant concern was the loss of face-to-face time with the patient. They felt that the use of an EHR would reduce the focus on the patient and potentially cause physicians to miss medical conditions. The results of this study indicate an avenue for EHR vendors to develop educational avenues to teach physicians how to optimize the EHR as well as to share success stories that demonstrate improved financial impact.