OHIP Offers Low Interest Loans To Physicians for EHR Implemention

 

The Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP) has announced that three Midwest banks are offering low-cost loans to physicians and other qualified healthcare professionals to cover the initial expense of using electronic health records (EHRs).  For more loan information, go to EHR Loan Program.

 Huntington Bank and Fifth Third Bank in Ohio, and U.S. Bank in Minnesota, will offer physicians loans for the upfront money needed to create the technology infrastructure in their practices at an affordable rate.  In turn, these physicians will be able to take advantage of federal stimulus money and receive incentives to repay those loans, once they follow federal guidelines in their use of these health records. Eventually, doctors and health care professionals will become part of a statewide, electronic health information exchange.

 “We’re excited to be working with banks so our physicians and health care providers can move quickly to improve the quality of care for patients and cut the cost of health care in Ohio,” said Fred Richards, OHIP’s CIO/COO. “We’re offering this lower interest rate program so we can bring as many physicians on board as quickly and easily as possible now, so they can take advantage of the federal movement toward EHR use across the country.”  The banks are offering loans with interest rates between 4.5 and 5.9 percent, he said.

 Richards said it has been proven over and over again that when physicians and hospitals move from paper records to electronic ones, they improve the quality of diagnosis and care, can better coordinate medication use, and reduce duplicative or unnecessary services.  Ohio has received funding to provide 6,000 primary care physicians and health care professionals with assistance in implementing or upgrading their health information systems. Plus, doctors can qualify for financial incentives through Medicare and Medicaid of up to $44,000 over the next several years.

“The rush is on to get physicians signed up because the longer they wait, the more it will cost them in the future. If they wait three years, they’re going to have to pay for it themselves,”  Richards said.

While some physicians and hospitals already have their own EHR systems, they do not have the ability to “talk” to other physicians and hospitals outside that system and may need upgrades that follow new national standards. As the state-designated nonprofit handling both the implementation of EHRs and the creation of a health information exchange, OHIP’s goal is to enable the secure, real time sharing of patient information across the state. 

 For instance, a person may have a family physician but also sees a cardiologist, an oncologist and an orthopedic surgeon. Since there’s a good chance this individual is on a multitude of medications, electronic health records could help the physician change the drug therapy to best fit the total care of a patient.  Labs, pharmacies, hospitals, urgent care centers, physicians, nurse practioners and more – all of these health professionals could share health records.  For an emergency room visit, the medical staff would have virtual access to a person’s records and could better diagnose and treat an unconscious person with all of the patient’s information at their fingertips. The secure information would only be accessed if the patient had given prior permission.

 OHIP established seven regional extension centers  throughout the state.  About 500 physicians have signed up with these partners and are receiving free services, such as an assessment of technology needs, staff training, selection of a vendor, and implementation of the EHR within the practice or hospital, and how to use health records in a meaningful way, so they can draw down Medicare or Medicaid incentives. Five preferred vendors offer affordable pricing , including Allscripts, eClinicalWorks, e-MDs, NextGen and  Sage.

OHIP is a nonprofit public-private partnership that includes the Ohio State Medical Association, Ohio Osteopathic Association, Ohio Hospital Association, BioOhio and the State of Ohio. To find out more about OHIP, go to: www.ohiponline.org   

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