Solo docs join the digital ranks

Reavis Eubanks, MD

Older docs and those who run solo and small practices step up to the challenge

ASHEVILLE, NC  -  The American Medical Association recently called on CMS to exempt physicians who were close to retirement from the meaningful use program, arguing it would be too costly, perhaps even driving doctors to drop their Medicare patients to avoid the program's penalties come 2015.

No exception needed, says Reavis Eubanks, 66, a solo practitioner who has spent his entire career as a general surgeon in Asheville, N.C. He wrote the U.S. Congresswoman, who proposed the exemption to tell her so. 

In 2010, at 63, Eubanks gave up surgery and converted his practice to a general one. He continues to assist at surgeries and to teach residents in an OBGYN program. 

As long as he's healthy, he plans to continue to work as he has for the past 30 years.

"I have no plans of slowing down," he says.

Eubanks is an avid advocate for meaningful use and electronic health records. His system is a Web-based one developed by athenahealth. It enables him to completely and quickly record meaningful use items  -  "all things a good doctor should be doing anyway," he says. 

He was among those who collected the maximum incentive payment for achieving Stage 1 meaningful use, and he's already at work on Stage 2. 

"One of the things I found with meaningful use, Eubanks says, "is that everything I was being asked to do  -  the criteria I was being asked to meet  -  to me were very logical and there were something that were important to healthcare in general. It wasn't that you were asked to do some Mickey Mouse requirement that really had no impact on healthcare."

David Heine, MD, a solo family practitioner who runs The Family Care Clinic in Decorah, Iowa, feels the same way about electronic medical records, he says. It boils down to quality.

"EMRs are vital as our country studies to find concrete and tangible ways to ensure efficiency in care, cost considerate thinking in care and foremost  -  quality of care of the patient," says Heine. "This should be important to each one of us as citizens, as it will also have a profound impact on costs of healthcare in the future. 

The government set up Regional Extension Centers (RECs) to help physicians like Heine, and he has taken full advantage of the help, even becoming somewhat of a star. The Telligen Iowa HITREC recently recognized his leadership in EHR adoption and named him to the Meaningful Use Vanguard (MUV), designed to call attention to clinicians like Heine who have successfully implemented electronic health records.