EMR adoption surpasses halfway mark

Just over half of Northern Ontario’s family physicians are using electronic medical record (EMR) technology, according to statistics compiled by OntarioMD, which manages the EMR Adoption Program on behalf of eHealth Ontario.Of the 740 family physicians practising in the North, 380 have moved from paper charts to EMRs. This includes 240 of the 500 family physicians practising in the North East LHIN and 130 of the 250 family docs practising in the northwest.

“The penetration rate in Northern Ontario compares very favourably with the rest of the province,” said OntarioMD CEO Brian Forster. “The highest penetration rate for any single LHIN is 55 per cent, so the northwest is very close (at 54 per cent) and the northeast follows close behind (at 48 per cent).

By March 2012, OntarioMD hopes to have 7,000 of Ontario’s 10,500 family physicians using EMRs, for a provincial penetration rate of 70 per cent. The target for the current EMR Adoption Program also includes 1,800 specialists.

OntarioMD provides funding of between $27,000 and $29,800 to physicians agreeing to convert to an EMR. The precise amount depends on whether the physician chooses to store data locally or opt for an application service provider (ASP) model and have it hosted by eHealth Ontario. Physicians receive an initial grant of $2,500 for setup and receive monthly installments of either $600 in the case of a local EMR, or $675 for an ASP model over a period of 36 months.

In return, physicians have to agree to use the system for billing, encounter notes, problem lists, preventative care, writing prescriptions, managing lab reports and storing documents received as hard copies.
Once they have 600 or two-thirds of their patients on the system, they are also eligible for a $2,000 performance bonus.

OntarioMD has had to stop payments to only one physician for non-compliance, said Forster.

OntarioMD surveys show 65 per cent of physicians claiming EMRs helped improve the quality of care for their patients. Another 30 per cent reported the quality of care being about the same. The results were similar when physicians were asked about the impact of EMRs on continuity of care and patient safety.

Ninety per cent of physicians responding to OntarioMD surveys reported using their EMRs to write prescriptions and manage lab results.

There are currently 12 EMR systems eligible for funding in Ontario, including three ASP-model EMRs and nine local systems.

“We have a standardized data set and the interface to our report manager is the same for all EMRs, so once a vendor has written it, we can hook it up to any hospital,” said Forster. “Then the hospital can start sending their reports to the family physician.”

eHealth Ontario is also working on making EMR data in physician offices accessible within the wider health-care system.

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