The future of chiropractic as the leader in mainstream health care is now upon us! It’s no surprise chiropractic has taken the backseat to other disciplines when it comes to recognition for our contributions in health care, but times are about to change! Before we can seize this opportunity of ascending to greater national recognition, we must achieve the following:
1) Universal adoption of electronic health records
2) Share electronically generated practice data
3) Establish a systematic mining of data for information on patient outcomes under chiropractic care
And if we can accomplish all three of these achievements, there is no doubt it will prove that our profession is technologically modern, collaborative, and willing to prove our outcomes with clinical data. The timing is right, the technology is available, and all chiropractors, regardless of practice style and philosophy, and financial means, clearly stand to benefit.
The beginning of the revolution
Electronic Health Records within the American Recovery and Reinvestment’s Act’s HITECH Act has been a topic of interest for most health care providers. Envision…quick and universal adoption of the same EHR platform by private chiropractic practices would draw the eye of the entire American health care system on us--every government health agency, every third-party payer, and every state’s department of health! Plus, all other health care providers would take notice of articles touting that the first profession to lead all health care providers in adoption of EHR is the chiropractic profession. Such a move would out-pace the adoption of EHRs by medical doctors and allied health practitioners, with the exception of hospitals and extended large group practices. Once and for all, we could permanently close the door on any criticism that we aren't interested in modernizing our own profession or being involved in modern health care through collaboration and communication with our local hospitals and medical counterparts in the sharing of health information.
The time is right…NOW!
Due to both a new legal climate and federal encouragement of adoption via incentive payments, many chiropractors are deepening their interest in EHR’s. This comes with the passing of health care reform legislation that names doctors of chiropractic as medical home managers. Not only are chiropractors joining medical doctors, podiatrists, optometrists, and dentists as having the capacity to be eligible for federal incentive monies to adopt an EHR in the federal HITECH Act, but we are also in the National Health Care law, approved to be a medical manager to help patients manage and coordinate their primary care.
If you can imagine the benefits of having chiropractors as patient-chosen gatekeepers in our health care system, then I think you can imagine the remarkable opportunity this offers. Especially as we see a climbing shortage in primary care providers.
It’s all in a cloud these days
Cloud computing has led to new developments in how clinical data is processed and stored and it is also making the amalgamation of data possible. The recent shift to cloud computing by Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM can be replicated by our profession and that means we could be sending de-identified outcomes data to a universal chiropractic database.
Cloud computing benefits private chiropractic practices in several ways. As there is little investment in computer hardware, it doesn't require a lot of capital. Because it involves remote servers, professionals help maintain a powerful server that safely stores your data yet the software of the EHR still resides in your office without slowing down your PC’s. In addition, since it’s Internet-based, you can access it virtually anywhere.
Mining for data
With universal adoption of EHRs by chiropractors, the greatest benefit offered by cloud computing is the ability to turn our data into a large chiropractic database. Within one to two years of universal EHR adoption and data sharing, chiropractors could create enough clinical data to re-order the health care system starting with musculoskeletal complaints and continuing on from there. Within a few more years, we would have more data than any single insurance network. All of it providing evidence for the patient populations and conditions that see improvement under our care. And it could all be analyzed by whatever factors we want: geographic location, patient age, practitioner experience, cost, etc.
Leveraging our data could provide us strategic advantages to dramatically increase our market share. Think more referrals, more access to patients in emergency or primary care settings, and better evidence to negotiate reimbursements. We will now have a database full of evidence of how and when chiropractic works. Complete data that gives our profession greater credibility, authority, and elevates us in the eyes of referral sources, and results in better negotiating to third-party payers and government agencies. In other words, widespread recognition from the system we all belong too, for our contribution to the health of the nation.
Do you share the vision?
The timing is right, the technology is ready, and regardless of how we practice, we and our patients stand to benefit. It's time to leverage our collective clinical experience on a massive scale with electronic health records. Leverage where our influence knows no bounds. That is my vision for our profession. Will you share it and join with me?
Dr. Steven J. Kraus is Founder and Chairman of Future Health¯the nation’s #1 provider of chiropractic-specific EHR/practice management software. He has more than 22 years’ experience in practice management and is an acknowledged expert in Heath IT, including EHR and the up-to-$44,000 ARRA government incentive. Dr. Kraus serves on numerous committees and frequently travels to Washington, D.C., to represent chiropractic physicians in healthcare discussions and policymaking. To see a no-obligation Future Health software demo, call Toll Free 1-888-434-7347.