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Published 5/1/2010

Are you ready for emerging technologies?

Put high tech to work in your practice

Orthopaedic surgeons have frequently been identified as “high-tech,” that label more appropriately applies to the tools used in the operating suite rather than to the way many orthopaedic practices are run. In many cases, orthopaedic practices still rely on paper records, film radiographs, and snail mail rather than electronic medical records (EMRs), picture archiving and communications (PACs) systems, and Web-based patient portals.

Ultimately, these emerging technologies will affect every orthopaedic practice. But preparing for them, understanding their impact, and making decisions that commit your practice to one system over another may seem overwhelming.

To help you put the power of new technology to work for your practice, the AAOS has developed a new course, “EMR and Other Technologies: Revolutionary Change in Orthopaedic Practice,” June 11–13, at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. And, to enable you to see these technologies in action, a concurrent vendor fair will feature several providers of EMR systems, PAC systems, and practice management systems.

HITECH solutions
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was enacted to encourage implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) by physicians and hospitals.

Beginning in 2011, the Act provides monetary incentives for the adoption of EHRs; starting in 2015, it subjects healthcare providers and institutions to financial penalties for noncompliance. To receive federal funds, doctors and hospitals must demonstrate that they are meeting “meaningful use requirements” from an EHR system.

“This course will help orthopaedic surgeons assess the pros and cons of applying for the incentive payments, provide implementation strategies for new technologies, and help orthopaedic surgeons make good choices for their practice,” said Stephen P. Makk, MD, MBA, course director. “The vendor fair will enable participants to compare and contrast the features and benefits of various systems so they can see which ones might be right for their practice.”

“EMRs can change the practice of orthopaedics,” agrees presenter Richard M. Dell, MD. Studies conducted by Dr. Dell conclude that using EMRs to manage patients at risk of osteoporosis could reduce the rate of hip fractures by 25 percent.

But EMRs are not foolproof; recent studies have indicated that they may affect the quality of patient communication as well as communication among healthcare providers in negative as well as positive ways. Ensuring that EMR systems integrate with PACS and practice management systems is important to taking an office to the next level of technology.

A relatively new concept, the patient portal, is a new factor in communicating with patients—and in allowing patients to communicate with healthcare providers. Patient portals may enable patients to ask questions, request prescription refills, schedule appointments, and pay bills online.

What’s right for your practice?
Each orthopaedic practice has different needs, and determining which EMR system meets those needs most efficiently and cost-effectively can be challenging. Orthopaedic surgeons who have been through the process—from needs assessment to contract negotiations to implementation and training—will share their experiences and expertise. The opportunity to go “hands-on” with a variety of systems will put your practice a step ahead when it comes down to the final decision.

Additional information is available about the “EMR and Other Technologies” course.