Painting by Pixels: A Closer Look at the EMR Picture

As part of our national discussion about electronic medical records and the scorecards that get quoted on Electronic Medical Record (EMR) adoption, Meaningful Use attestation rates and reimbursement payouts, there is a tendency to paint the picture in very broad brushstrokes. We look at the data among hospitals and eligible providers. Perhaps we look a little closer and examine the trends by size of practice or by specialty. But what can we learn if we examine the pixels of this digital picture? Where does selecting, affording, implementing and growing with an EMR fit into the priorities of male and female doctors? Doctors who are under 40 and those over 60?

At Hello Health, we have a unique opportunity to visit with primary care doctors from across the country on a weekly basis to discuss the challenges their practices face and to present to them an electronic medical revenue platform to consider.  In the course of our interactions, we ask doctors to tell us what the number one issue that their practice is facing over the next three years. Essentially, what is keeping you up at night? 

Recently, we stepped back and looked at the responses on an age and gender basis to understand if doctors with differentdemographic profiles are looking at the same challenges or not. If there is a difference in how male and female doctors look at the future. And how prominently does EMR figure into their outlook?

Here are some of the pixels we are seeing:

  • Two issues overall dominate the focus of what most concerns our primary care doctors – electronic medical records and practice financials. Together these issues accounted for 76 percent of male and 75 percent of female doctor responses to our survey so far this year.
  • We see a difference in the importance of these issues when we look at the age of the physician. A higher percentage of doctors aged 60 and above identified practice financials as their number one issue (39%) as compared to their colleagues who are under 40 (23%).
  • When we look at the data more closely, this is much more the case for male doctors over 50 than for female doctors over over 50 − at 42 percent and 15 percent respectively. Overall, female doctors identify EMR as their number one challenge more than male doctors (46% vs. 33%).

These results are perhaps not too surprising. As doctors get closer to retirement, the financial outlook of their practice is central to planning their future and frankly, an EMR may or may not be viewed as necessary depending upon their time horizon for their practice. For younger doctors, it is hard to imagine practicing medicine in the future without an electronic medical record. For these doctors, the questions of which, how, how much and when loom large. Gender differences are harder to explainand the data is directional only. Nevertheless, it is important to take issues like electronic medical records and look beneath the veneer of the picture to understand how the cohorts which make up our health care system are reflecting on such an important opportunity, And for vendors, it still comes down to understanding the issues and challenges on a practice-by-practice basis. Male or female, young or old, every practice is unique and success really only truly comes one practice at a time. It is just too important to paint by numbers.

About the Author
Stephen Armstrong

Stephen Armstrong is senior vice president for Hello Health, the revenue generating EHR platform for primary care practices supporting practice vitality through patient engagement.