Employing meaningful use of technology while practicing excellence

May 7, 2010

Community Care Physicians, a multi-specialty group in Albany, N.Y., recognizes the value of integrating primary care with technology.

Key Points

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Kristine Campagna, DO, a family physician, writes a follow-up letter on her laptop to a patient about a cholesterol test. In a few moments, she has an appointment with one of her regular patients, whom she reveals is often late.

But instead of calling a nurse to see if he has arrived, Campagna makes two quick clicks and sees on her screen that he is indeed tardy. Campagna finishes her letter, prints it out for an office assistant to mail, checks phone messages, and works on completing the notes for patients she saw in the morning. All of these tasks are completed while still working in the practice's electronic health record (EHR) without needing to leave her desk.

"This is a very forward-looking company," says Barbara Morris, MD, a pediatrician and the practice's medical director. "We saw the changing future of medicine and recognized very early-on that the best way we were going to develop and grow as a multispecialty health group was that we needed to adopt the concept of a unified patient record that is seamlessly accessible for people who provide care for them within the company."

Community Care, a physician-owned, physician-led practice, is an idyllic example for other large group practices; in addition, much of what they have learned along the way can also be helpful for smaller practices that are looking at adopting various forms of technology (see "Thrive at any size"). The physicians invest a portion of their gross revenue annually for the EHR system license and maintenance and the practice's full-time IT staff, but Community Care has already earned $4.5 million in bonuses from insurers for technology adoption and patient-centered medical home pilot projects, which the EHR helped them complete. While Morris expects similar financial returns in the future, she says she believes the goal of the EHR and other technology is even more far-reaching.

"We wanted to make it easier for the doctors and make it more efficient and cost-effective for the practices," Morris says. "But first and foremost, we wanted to develop a medical record-keeping system that enhances the quality of patient care. We really do believe the [EHR] does that, absolutely."