Healthcare Software: Can Small Healthcare Facilities Afford it?
Automation softwares are the most basic healthcare softwares. These softwares help in storing all the health insurance data electronically.
To begin with, what will be the cost of the entire transition to going paperless? Who will fund the process? Do small clinics meet the required standards to be eligible for the governments? Can they afford the costs? And last, but definitely an equally important concern – Can these small clinics meet the goal of going digital within the next five years?
The federal government is funding billions of dollars to enable hospitals and clinics nationwide have EHR technology. However, the smaller clinics are skeptical if they will be eligible for the funds and if they will be able to meet the goal in the coming five years. There are also fears that the distribution of funds will majorly go towards the bigger healthcare facilities leading to a digital divide and thus creating a health disparity between the rich and the poor.
The cost of the entire project is an issue too. The federal government is offering $44,000 apiece in economic stimulus money for using electronic health records to improve patient care. Many doctors in small practices however believe that the amount is not enough to purchase all the necessary equipment. And even if it did, these small healthcare facilities do not have the cash to pay upfront. A total amount of $27 billion has been allocated to help doctors and hospitals purchase electronic health record systems. This money will be given out only when doctors demonstrate that they meet the government benchmarks set to improve patient care through technology.
There are no exact figures but several surveys suggest that fewer than the national average have gone digital. The number of hospitals adopting new healthcare technology is not high, but what the numbers is even lesser when it comes to clinics that serve low-income patients.
Many low-income patients prefer to go to one or two-doctor clinics. These clinics, which can barely cover the rent and the part time doctors, often lack even the basic digital records.
What is encouraging to see is that the federal government is not aloof. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has acknowledged the disparity that could crop up. He has urged digital medical records vendors to market their products more to lower income and minority doctors. The office of Blumenthal has also confirmed that the “officials are working closely with HHS's Office of Minority Health to develop a comprehensive strategy for getting more low-income and minority doctors to go digital.”
The government has also decided to give an additional $300million to hospitals and clinics that cater to the low-income population, to help them purchase electronic health record systems. It has also started 62 outreach points throughout the country that will help smaller healthcare units in figuring out how to adopt healthcare technology and go digital.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shaun Mike is well known authority on health insurance in the US. He is currently looking to expand his expertise to health insurance and other healthcare software available.