Another Resource for Overcoming EHR and HIT Adoption Barriers

July 5, 2011
Marisa Torrieri

A new study suggests that practices wanting to let go of their paper-based ways should give local independent practice associations (IPAs), which are staffed by HIT-savvy medical pros, a chance to help.

Need guidance on how to overcome IT barriers in order to implement new technology? Consider giving your local independent practice association a ring.

A newly published study from the Center for Studying Health System Change, based on interviews with five independent practice associations (IPAs) from March to May 2010, reveals that these organizations can help less-technologically inclined clinicians wean themselves off paper - and fully adopt new technology.

According to the study, IPAs provide expertise to help practices investigate the best options for different practice circumstances. The ones surveyed - including Physician Health Partners (Denver), Genesis Physicians Group (Dallas), Huron Valley Physicians Association (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Physicians Medical Group of Santa Cruz County (Santa Cruz, Calif.), and Mid Rogue Independent Physician Association (Grants Pass, Ore.) - said they helped small practices, for example, by offering access to licensure agreements or other financing vehicles that can reduce investment costs.

“A key finding is that identifying physician leaders who can bridge the gap between technology and clinical care is a powerful way to help physicians in small practices overcome barriers to HIT adoption,” according to researchers.

For practices not connected with an IPA, another HIT tool to consider is Regional Extension Centers.

Thanks to the HITECH Act, ONC, in partnership with CMS and other agencies, has funded 62 Regional Extension Centers to help more than 100,000 primary-care providers achieve meaningful use and receive Medicare and Medicaid EHR program incentive payments.

Because small and rural practices have fewer financial and personal resources than their bigger counterparts, HHS states that RECs are focused on giving free and low-cost services to primary-care providers. After an initial assessment of your practice, a REC representative will determine the next steps based on the practice needs, such as assigning a consultant to work one on one to adopt an EHR.

"The biggest challenge is the change," said Carol Steltenkamp, the primary grant investigator for the Kentucky Regional Extension Center, in the May issue of Physicians Practice. "You're going to have to change how you practice, and that's big for every one of us."

We want to hear from you. What are some of the best resources out there for small practices that want to implement EHRs and other new technology?