This has been a very hot disputed and conversational topic for years and it is a step in the right direction not to penalize "not for profit" hospitals who want to pursue this and provide assistance for their physicians on staff.  The next item that enters into this arena, is do the non profits have the funds to accomplish this as well as motivation for a ROI (return on investment).  Many physicians today have the experience of being on staff at both types of hospitals, non profit and those who do make a profit.  In my travels it appears the "for profit" hospitals seems to be quite a bit ahead of the game simply due to financial availability, but all is not lost.   The good news is that non profit hospitals have many choices today and can in fact provide this type of assistance with either low cost or no cost alternatives and any efforts in this area can have positive results.  Even the "for profit" hospitals do not cover the tab entirely in providing the hardware necessary to operate the software, so there still in some type of investment required at both ends. 

Non profit hospitals can easily take small steps to increase the interoperability of patient records, beginning with the most simple steps of education for a good start and helping their physicians on staff understand the value of technology and work as a team to make this a reality for better patient care.  Competing with the "for profit" hospitals is a tough task, but the first step is to implement some type of of in house electronic records themselves and then perhaps expand this accessibility to the physicians on staff.  As mentioned above, this is a fairly large project to undertake and there is also the competition with HMOs in regards to "who is going to be the ultimate data warehouse" of patient records, not to mention the integration of personal health records.  The jury is still out on where and who will be the ultimate warehouse for patient health history, but this appears to be a good move in the right direction to move towards a paperless and interoperable system that will result in better patient care.  As in any area of health care, education with technology will always be your best friend and help create a team effort to put more money to the bottom line for both the practice and the hospital.  BD

Not-for-profit hospitals may provide financial assistance to staff physicians to “acquire and implement software that is used predominantly for creating, maintaining, transmitting or receiving electronic health records (EHRs) for their patients,” according to a directive issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) last week.

“The reason this [ruling] is so important is that hospital providers are the lowest-cost resource for getting IT in physicians’ hands,” said Scott Wallace, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Health Information Technology, according to Healthcare IT News. “The incremental cost to extend a hospital’s IT to physicians is relatively low, and doing so takes away a huge obstacle for small physicians who want to move to EHRs.”

The IRS noted in the memo that “many hospitals plan to establish interoperable EHR systems to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their medical care and to reduce medical errors,” and that “some believe that their medical staff need a financial incentive” to purchase and implement the software to connect with these systems.

Source: IRS rules hospitals may assist physicians with healthcare IT - 18 May 2007


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