Experts predict a surge in the number of physicians using electronic medical record systems

By dangling as much as $20 billion in front of physicians to encourage their adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) systems during the next few years, Congress has created a new and expensive challenge for the nation’s clinical laboratories. That challenge is the need for every pathology laboratory to establish a high-function interface from its LIS to the office-based physician’s EMR.

According to one expert, the government’s “carrot and stick” strategy to reward doctors financially for adopting EMR’s, will soon force independent medical laboratories and hospital laboratory outreach programs to play catch up with LIS-EMR interfaces to maintain access to physician referrals and the revenue that accompanies these laboratory test specimens.

Pat Wolfram, VP, Ignis Systems Corporation and Ruth Johansson, Information Technology (IT) Program Director at Providence Health & Services

Pat Wolfram, VP, Ignis Systems Corporation and Ruth Johansson, Information Technology (IT) Program Director at Providence Health & Services

“This is a game changer in the EMR market—both for smaller physician practices and the clinical laboratories that serve them,” said Pat Wolfram, Vice President, Marketing & Customer Services at Portland, Oregon-based Ignis Systems Corporation.  “With at least $18 billion in incentive money to encourage physicians to become ‘meaningful users’ of an EMR during the next few years, the federal government has dangled a very attractive carrot in front of the physician community. Since passage of the American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009,  we’ve seen a dramatic pick-up in our business of interfacing LIS to EMR systems.”

Wolfram expects that a significant majority of physicians in the United States will fully adopt EMR’s within the next four years. Because of this, he says physicians groups and hospitals will be quite picky when deciding upon their clinical laboratory provider.

“To remain competitive, every clinical laboratory and hospital lab outreach program needs to gear up and provide a functional LIS-to-EMR interface that allows the physician—from within his EMR, and as a natural part of his work flow—to order lab tests and have the laboratory test results automatically populate the patient record,” he said. “If any medical laboratory is unable to do this, it will lose physicians clients as they turn to a laboratory competitor who can provide this service.”

Wolfram offers numbers to support the size of the EMR market shift now in its earliest stages. “Currently, about 20% to 25% of the outpatient doctors in the United States have adopted EMRs in their daily practice, explained Wolfram. “Projections are that as many as 160,000 physicians now use EMRs. That leaves about 640,000 of the nation’s 800,000 physicians yet to adopt daily use of an EMR. The Obama administration’s stated goal is to get 95% of these physicians to adopt EMRs.

“This is one important reason why clinical laboratories need to be ready to meet the demand of their client physicians to implement an effective LIS-to-EMR interface,” he continued. “Labs will struggle to accommodate this demand for four reasons:

  • “First, a growing number of smaller physician practices—which often don’t generate substantial numbers of case referrals and revenue—will all want to their EMR to be ‘hooked up’ to the LIS at the same time. Labs will need to establish an implementation timetables and staying on schedule will be daunting.
  • “Second, clinical laboratories will scramble to find enough skilled information technology staff and consultants to install and bring up these LIS-to-EMR interfaces. Their competitors will be out bidding for the same limited pool of talent.
  • “Third, clinical laboratories must offer physicians an LIS-to-EMR interface that is truly integrated between the two systems and supports the physician’s natural work flow. Failure to achieve this will put that client at risk of leaving in favor of another competing lab that can deliver on these points.
  • Fourth, medical labs will have to bear the cost of these LIS-to-EMR interfaces. This will be expensive and the federal government hasn’t offered financial help, despite the fact that lab test orders/results reporting is one of the first clinical services to meet the definition of ‘meaningful use’.”

Wolfram stressed that this is not a “maybe” or a “what if” option for clinical laboratories. He believes the heightened interest by physicians in a functional LIS-to-EMR interface will help determine which clinical laboratories will be able to thrive in this new reality.

Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (NYSE: DGX) and Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH) are way ahead of the game,” he said. “They have already ramped up their ability to interface with different EMR products.

“Local laboratories and hospital lab outreach programs can get an effective LIS-to-EMR interface capability in place relatively quickly,” noted Wolfram. “But this is an important development in the marketplace that cannot be ignored. Clinical labs that are slow to respond to this trend can expect that many of their client physicians will switch to other lab providers that can provide them with a useful LIS-to-EMR interface.”

Because of both the importance of this trend and the speed with which it is about to transform the way most medical laboratories provide electronic connections to their office-based physician clients, The Dark Report is conducting the lab industry’s first audio conference on this topic. “New Opportunities for Your Lab’s LIS-EMR Interface: How to Profit From the “Big Wave” About to Hit Healthcare”  will take place on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 1 p.m. EDT; 12 p.m. CDT; 11 a.m. MDT; 10 a.m. PDT Details and registration can be found on DarkDaily.com.

Pat Wolfram is the featured speaker and will provide managers of clinical laboratories and pathology groups with an inside view of how to develop effective LIS-to-EMR interfaces. Joining him is Ruth Johanson, who is the Information Technology (IT) Program Director at Providence Health & Services of Portland, Oregon. Her health system’s laboratory outreach program is successfully implementing LIS-to-EMR interfaces. Johanson will provide practical lessons learned on how to use these interfaces to attract profitable new outreach clients.

This audio conference gives you and your laboratory’s information technology team the lab industry’s first opportunity to hear Pat Wolfram’s insights on the best ways for a clinical laboratory to organize a winning LIS-to-EMR interface program, along with useful guidance on how to avoid the pitfalls. Then Ruth Johanson will share how Providence’s laboratory outreach program is using its LIS-to-EMR interface capabilities to deliver added value to office-based physicians in a profitable manner. Mark your calendar now and make plans to be with us for this exceptional learning opportunity.

HOW TO REGISTER/ORDER AUDIO CD:
1. Online
2. Call toll free: 800-560-6363.

Related Information:

Six more states awarded EMR money

IBM Global Financing Lends a Hand on Electronic Medical Records

Health and Human Services Department identifying barriers to EMR adoption

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