February 12, 2013

Eye Care for the Adirondacks goes electronic

PLATTSBURGH — The physicians and staff at Eye Care for the Adirondacks have completed a two-year project to upgrade their offices to a completely electronic-records format.

The move helps the office meet federal regulations for moving toward an electronic medical-records system, but it has also improved the facility’s health-care services while giving patients a better understanding of their own health care.

“The federal government mandated that health providers go to electronic-record keeping, or they will take away in the future a percentage of Medicaid money,” office manager Faye Martineau said of one of the financial incentives Eye Care had for making the switch.

“We knew it was time to jump on the bandwagon and meet certain criteria (for using electronic-medical records in the practice).”

With every physician in the practice who was able to incorporate the electronic system, Eye Care for the Adirondacks would receive $18,000 from the federal government to help pay for the cost of switching over to an electronic format.

Nine physicians have completed the transfer, netting $162,000 for the first year, and the practice will continue to receive smaller increments in incentives over the next few years as long as they remain in compliance.

The cost for software and hardware to complete the switch exceeded $500,000, and that does not include the cost for training the facility’s 80-plus staff members, Martineau said.

The switch to electronic-medical records goes well beyond financial incentives, however.

“One big advantage is the improvement in quality care for our patients,” Martineau said. “When the doctors do certain tests, the results go right into the patient’s electronic record, and the doctor can share the results with the patient on the computer screen.”

For instance, optical coherence tomography is a relatively new procedure that scans the optic nerve to help determine treatment options for glaucoma. With four optical coherence tomography machines in the practice, doctors can receive immediate results and share those results with patients to initiate treatment.

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