Study: Stark law relaxation could spur EMR adoption

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The recent relaxation to changes to the “Stark” Physician Referral law and Anti-Kickback Statute (“Stark Relaxation”) could accelerate the adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) systems by physicians, according to a new study commissioned by GE Healthcare. The study found that the changes have the potential to double the number of physician practices that are willing to acquire or upgrade an EMR system within the next year.

In 2006, lawmakers created new safe harbors and exceptions to the regulations implementing the Anti-Kickback Statute and the “Stark” Physician Referral law. These rules had previously limited hospital financial support for physician implementation of EMRs.

In 2005, a RAND Corporation study found that just 15 to 20 percent of physician offices and 20 to 25 percent of hospitals in the U.S. had adopted EMR systems. The GE commissioned study found that with the rule relaxation and the opportunity for EMR donations, the proportion of physician practices indicating that they are likely to acquire a new EMR or upgrade an existing system nearly doubled to 57 percent, and could increase further to 62 percent in the next three years.

The study found that physicians continue to cite acquisition cost as their biggest concern. Also physicians responded that they significantly prefer to receive an EMR donation from a local hospital or integrated delivery network rather than from an insurance company, regional health information organization (RHIO), EMR vendor or pharmaceutical company. In addition, most physicians claimed to be willing to have the EMR hosted on a hospital’s server. Such a hosted option can reduce ongoing support costs and eliminates the physicians’ need to acquire additional hardware. EMR hosting could raises issues for physicians regarding their relationship with the donating entity and physicians’ access to their own data.

Finally, 61 percent of physicians do not see e-prescribing as a viable “first step” toward implementing an EMR system. According to the survey, physicians believe that an integrated EMR and e-prescribing system would minimize the disruption caused by implementing new workflows.

GE Healthcare commissioned an independent market research firm to conduct a blinded study of 200 physicians in small, medium and large practices to identify what effects.