Dynamic Chiropractic – October 7, 2009, Vol. 27, Issue 21

An Opportunity for Change

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

Next year, the U.S. government will provide almost $1.2 billion in grants for hospitals and health care providers to establish and use electronic health records systems. According to a recent press release, (Reuters, Aug.

20, 2009): "The grants include $598 million to set up some 70 health information technology centers to help health care institutions acquire electronic health record systems and $564 million to develop a nationwide system of health information networks, Vice President Joe Biden's office said in a statement."
The release added, "'This is just the first wave of resources invested in health technology aimed at transforming our paper-driven system to an electronic system over the next several years,' said [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius, who was in Chicago to unveil the grants with Biden."

Sebelius went on to state, "'Expanding the use of electronic health records is fundamental to reforming our health care system. Electronic health records can help reduce medical errors, make health care more efficient and improve the quality of medical care for all Americans.'"

The grants will be made in 2010 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. What this means to you as a health care provider is clear: You will eventually adopt an electronic health care records system that will be compatible with those used by other providers of health care.

As I write this, health care reform is still a political football. The intent for much-needed reform is evident. Special-interest groups may dilute the extent of reform mandated by Congress, but reform will still happen via other avenues. Reform is just a nice word for change. Health care is no different than any other industry when it comes to the need to constantly change to better fit the needs of our customers (patients).

If you think back a decade or two, you can probably still remember having a travel agent. Add another decade and those in the publishing industry were still typesetting what went into print. Now we are able to book our own travel and design artwork on a computer. These changes did not eliminate the travel and graphics industries. They merely changed and enhanced the way they did business.

The standardization and centralization of health care information is absolutely essential in the minds of the public. It should be clear by now that electronic health records will be a reality even if Congress can't agree on any type of health care reform. Like online travel reservations, they are what consumers want and need to manage their health care.

Our profession should not shy away from these types of changes; we should embrace them. Yes, we need to ensure we are not cut out of any aspect of patient access or reimbursement, but with electronic health records, we will have the ability to access a wealth of patient data - including previous imaging results and lab work, as well as information on allergies, medications, etc. - that can have a significant bearing on the decisions you make when the patient is under your care.

And in the not-so-distant future (It's not included in current EHR guidelines), we could even have the ability to see what our patients are accessing other health care providers for that chiropractic may be able to address. In such a scenario, we would have a clearer picture of what is working and not working. So would our patients. Moreover, the ability to interface with other providers through our patients' records would give us the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of what we do (assuming our reports are clearly written).

We must always safeguard our rights and those of our patients. In the era of technology, that can be a little scary to some people. But at the end of the day, the changes we fear could offer the greatest opportunities.

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