Don't move to EMR if sole reason bonus $$ from government; adopt for right reasons

If you adopted an Electronic Medical Record to take advantage of government funding, then you have made a big mistake, not to mention having abused public funds for personal gain. An EMR SHOULD be used to help improve the quality of care for your patients. For the most part, such systems do not save you time during your patient encounters and can be heartbreakingly painful to set up for your practice. That being said, it appears that a number of my colleagues have made the move to an EMR so they could get the government incentive money. Why would anyone do this?


Our province has a government funded initiative in order to help compensate physicians for the transition to Electronic Medical Records (PITO.) By covering 70% of the cost up to a set maximum, the plan is meant to help compensate for the burden of making the transition and to help improve healthcare by setting some standards for data collection with the longterm goal of accessible data throughout the province regardless where the patient seeks care.

As is becoming the pattern in other provinces, these initiatives appear to be money pits costing more than planned due to poor management that ultimately fail to meet any of the set targets. As for the goal of the patient showing up in some area of the province other than their own family doctor’s office and being able to access their data - nice dream and not likely in our lifetimes, even though the technology all exists today.

In talking with my lead IT consultant, it turns out that many of the medical practices which he supports may have signed on to the idea of an EMR for the government cash grab! It is hard to imagine the cost of those critical first few months of decreased productivity when implementing an EMR is worth the approximate $7,000 per year cash incentive from the government. Since the governments are doing this to get the ball rolling, it is safe to assume that this funding will not last forever and within a couple of years they will announce no more annual cashback. Will my colleagues really just go back to paper if this happens?

You need to adopt an EMR for the right reasons; cash incentive from your government is not one of those reasons! Some of the right reasons:

  • Easier access to your data from prior visits for each patient
  • Automatic appearance of lab results directly into each patient’s record (saving time wasted searching for lost results)
  • Access to patient records remotely (you get a call from a house officer or on-call doc about one of your patients and can pull out your patient’s chart on your handheld device - mine works on the iPhone)
  • Confirm outcomes of treatment to a given patient or even all patients you see with similar conditions/treatments
  • Generate consult letters back to your referring doctor

Note how abusing the government health care funds by adopting an EMR for the cash incentive is not on this list!