Stamford, Conn. — Healthcare providers continue to point to increasing administrative and technology costs and decreased insurance payments as the raison d'être for challenges being faced in providing better patient care. Such are the results of a survey of more than 420 healthcare providers across the United States conducted recently by IVANS Inc., Stamford, Conn., which provides fully managed network, electronic data interchange (EDI) and agency-company interface solutions to help insurers and healthcare organizations solve complex business issues.

Increasing the quality of care and improving patient satisfaction are two of their top three most pressing business issues, healthcare providers said. Yet, dealing with decreased payments from Medicare and insurers was cited as their biggest concern. Nearly half of providers surveyed generate more than 50% of their revenue from Medicare, so reductions in payments can have a dramatic effect on their organizations, notes the survey. And, as the baby boomer generation retires and the demand for medical services increases, the operational and administrative challenges of servicing this larger population of patients is expected to worsen this divide.

To help close this gap, many healthcare providers are turning to technology. More than 60% of survey respondents believe the use of electronic health records (EHR) can have a significant impact on improving their businesses, and greater than 65% have already implemented or plan to implement these systems. Eight-five percent believe that Health Information Exchanges can facilitate information sharing for improving patient care.
The movement toward a more unionized and positive approach to EHRs is evident in a national Medicare demonstration project that provides incentive payments to physicians for using certified EHRs to improve the quality of patient care, reports the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The five-year, first-of-its-kind project is expected to improve the quality of care provided to an estimated 3.6 million Americans.

Giving Americans access to their health records is already on Kaiser Permanente’s agenda; the Oakland, Calif.-based health insurer is partnering with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft on a project that would give patients better access to their health records. The program calls for voluntary data exchange from Kaiser Permanente’s personal health records and Microsoft HealthVault, the companies announced.
The likelihood of widespread adoption of EHRs also would be enhanced if large, digitally advanced healthcare providers worked with smaller physician practices and community hospitals, reported the CIO of Geisinger Health System in Insurance Networking News in June.

A recent national survey [conducted by the group] found that just 4% of physicians have a fully functional EHR. In light of that survey, Geisinger CIO Frank Richards said it’s important for systems such as Geisinger to share resources, as well as lessons learned from implementing these systems.

“The electronic health record can improve healthcare quality and efficiency, remove geographic barriers between physicians and their patients and empower consumers,” Richards said. “There are economies of scale—it can get expensive the smaller the practice.”

And expense is a big issue. In the IVANS’ study 85% of providers cited lack of budget as the biggest challenge to technology adoption, followed by lack of expertise and getting staff to use technology. While healthcare providers seem to view technology as a viable method for doing more with less, they are not sure they have the internal resources to leverage it. Consistent with other industries, many providers are leaning on technology services firms for assistance, because they can offer cost-effective access to technology and the necessary expertise to use it.

& uot;The results of this survey further highlight the struggle in the healthcare community to find the right balance between cost and care” says Clare DeNicola, president and CEO of IVANS. "Technology can help bring together these opposing objectives, and many providers view technology as a critical element to closing this divide."

Sources: IVANS, INN archives, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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