10 IT challenges for physician practices in 2012

By Michelle McNickle
12:48 PM
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By now, we know physician practices have slightly different rules when it comes to their IT, and just as their technology is different, so are the challenges they’ll face in the upcoming year. 

Whether it’s meaningful use or simply finding the right personnel, 2012 promises to be chock-full of tricky IT issues for physician practices. Bob Dean, vice president of technology at ChartLogic, gives us the top 10 challenges for physician practices in the new year. 

1. Choosing the right technology. According to Dean, physicians will face a significantly increased number of data reporting requirements in 2012 and 2013. "For practice leaders, the decision is not whether to purchase an EHR, but what type is right for their office," he said. “In addition to the technology, customer service will play a key role, since many small medical groups are unable to hire a full-time, or even part-time, IT staffer.” And when it comes to meaningful use requirements, Dean said providers should keep in mind they’ll have to collect vital signs during patient visits, in addition to nurses and medical assistants. “The surgeon will need to document his evaluation of the patient. So, surgeons should look for an EHR system that can speed up the data entry process through dictation or click minimization.” 

2. Finding skilled, affordable IT personnel. Studies have shown the demand for consultants is at an all-time high, which is due in part to the rapid growth of the industry. “For example, the EHR market is projected to grow from $973 million in 2009 to $6.5 billion in 2012,” said Dean. A report from CHIME also found IT staffing shortages were putting projects at risk, and it noted a project shortage of 50,000 qualified IT personnel in the next two years. "The CHIME survey found that out of CIOs looking for personnel, 71 percent said they had open positions in clinical software implementation and support," said Dean.  So what’s being done to combat the issue? "On the positive side, the federal Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has initiated four IT workforce development programs," said Dean.

[See also: Physician practices collaborate with CDI to open new imaging center.]

3. Monitoring payments for ANSI-5010 compliance.  "As of Jan. 1, 2012, all physicians and hospitals will be required to submit bills using the ANSI 5010 transaction standards," said Dean. "The move to the new electronic transaction standards was required by the coming 2013 deadline for ICD-10 codes." Many practices are depending on their practice management vendor or medical billing company to upgrade their system, he said, and although most vendors will be complaint, some smaller firms may not be ready for January 1. "In addition, it’s possible some payers may experience glitches in the first few days of the system,” Dean noted. “For these reasons, ask your PM vendor or billing agency for reports on key metrics."

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