In his Jan. 20, 2004 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush said, “By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care.”
His sentiment was paralleled by The Institute of Medicine and the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics identifying health information technology as one of the most powerful tools for reducing medical errors, lowering health costs, and improving the quality of care in physician practices.
With information flying into physicians’ offices at Mach 2 speed, the task of choosing exactly which way to go can be confusing and overwhelming to say the least. In fact, if you Google “Technology in Physician Practices,” you get nearly two million hits. Yet with all the information available, the medical community is dragging behind adopting the newest technologies.
In a March 2007 letter to The Washington Times, American Medical Association president William G. Plested III listed four factors hindering technology usage in the medical community: ensuring the privacy and security of patients’ electronic records; the high cost of health information technology; multiple competing systems; and limited guidance in choosing a system.
“Only about 20 percent of physicians in practices employing 20 or more doctors have some form of health information technology and that rate drops among smaller practices,” Plested noted. “With systems that don’t currently talk to each other and no national standard for interoperability, physicians are wary about spending $44,000 to implement a system that disrupts an established workflow and may become irrelevant in the near future. Add the cost of health information technology to the steadily increasing cost of practicing medicine, as well as deep cuts in Medicare reimbursements to physicians, and making a decision to invest now in health information technology is one many physicians cannot do. The health information technology field is still young, and while physicians are optimistic about the benefits, more work needs to be done before widespread adoption is possible.”
To promote technology usage in medical practices, East Tennessee Medical News (ETMN) and Saratoga Technologies are offering the first annual TECHMED Awards, recognizing the outstanding use of technology in patient care. Awards are based not on how much money is being spent on technology, but rather on the effective use of technology in physicians’ practices.
ETMN publisher Bill Yeager said the concept emerged to highlight the good things going on with technology in practices and to use that recognition in a way to help other doctors discover how healthcare-related technology is being used successfully.
“Saratoga’s Allan Walters and I discussed the need of more technology use in the medical community because we wanted to encourage technology use and award those practices that best use technology, not the ones who just spend the most money,” explained Yeager, pointing out that only rewarding heavy spenders would involve larger practices “and we want all practices to have a chance and get involved.”
Walters, senior vice president of Saratoga Technologies, the premier award sponsor, said the firm had worked with TECHSTAR Awards being done by the Northeast Tennessee Technology Council (NTTC) in Johnson City and thought the same idea could be translated for the medical community.
“What they did was create an award for technology companies on different types and uses of technology,” Walters said. “We had past experience with that. I‘d known Bill a while and the idea came up about recognizing medical practices, but it didn’t have a technology flavor to it. So much of the new talk on medicine is about online medical records, prescriptions online and technology. We thought why don’t we do a technology-based award in medicine?
“I think the reason why doctors don’t do more (technology-wise) is they are just flat busy. And, I think when it comes to electronic medical records, a lot of doctors are holding off because they worry about which product to choose.
They’re onboard with the concept, but don’t know what to buy. Also, I think there is still some resistance to change. Some older or senior doctors don’t like the way to change the way they’ve been doing the way at been doing it for 20 years.”
Sign-up for the TECHMED Award continues through September 15; awards will be announced in the November issue of ETMN. The NTTC, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate, engage and support a region of technology-based businesses, will independently judge the entrants.
There will be a total of six awards, some geared to physician practices with up to 14 physicians and others denoting tech-savvy practices with 15 physicians and more. The winners will receive a yet-to-be-determined trophy from ETMN, a photo opportunity of the awards presentation, and a feature article chronicling how they use technology in their practice to help patient care. By random drawing, one of the six winners will have their Web site developed by Saratoga; 19 additional technology surveys will be given, based on random drawing of the entrants.
Baptist Hospital in Knoxville and Mountain State Health Alliance in the Tri-Cities are major sponsors of the award.
“Technology in healthcare is of the utmost importance,” said Baptist Hospital CEO Janice James. “As an organization, Baptist strives to be on the forefront of the latest technological advances. Being a sponsor will reinforce to physicians and patients that Baptist is constantly looking for ways through technology to provide the highest quality and most advanced healthcare to East Tennessee.”
For $1,500, a third level of sponsorship is available. Supporting sponsors will receive their name and logo on all print material in ETMN promoting the contest for the months of July through November and their name and logo on the sponsor page of the sign-up Web site. They also have the opportunity to provide awards to the winner and/or entrants if they choose.
Interested practices may learn more by visiting www.techmedaward2007.com or www.saratogaus.com.