Doctors want payment boost for using e-health records

Survey: Medicare patients not IT beneficiaries

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The American College of Physicians (ACP) is calling for Medicare to reimburse primary care physicians for using electronic health records and communicating with patients via e-mail and telephone.

ACP released the proposals Jan. 30 in the organization’s annual report on the state of the country’s health care. The organization highlighted an impending shortage of primary care physicians that the industry could avert, at least in part, by recognizing those doctors’ contributions to controlling health care costs, it said.

The health information technology proposals are part of a package that includes increases in reimbursements for some services provided by primary care physicians and an accelerated shift to pay-for-performance models for paying the bills of Medicare recipients.

ACP officials said they wanted other payers besides Medicare to make similar changes in how they reimburse doctors for providing preventive and coordinated care.

“Medicare discourages primary care physicians from organizing their practices to achieve optimal results for patients by failing to reimburse for care coordination, health [IT], e-mail consultations and other proven methods for improving quality and access” to medical care, said Robert Doherty, ACP’s senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy. “Medicare continues to pay doctors for doing more rather than doing better.”

Medicare does not routinely reimburse phone and e-mail communications, but studies have found that they can increase the quality of care and improve physician productivity, the ACP report states.

An additional payment to doctors for using EHRs could accelerate doctors’ adoption of the records, the report states. It suggests that to receive payments, doctors could be required to use software certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare IT and take part in a quality measurement and reporting program.

Because mostly small medical offices have resisted using EHRs and the cost of the systems is more burdensome for them, Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could also limit the extra payment to physicians in small practice settings, the report states.

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