Winter 2007

E X E C U T I V E   D I R E C T O R ' S  M E S S A G E
Membership survey shows more doctors ready for EMR technology

Dawn Mason Photo



Membership interest in the transfer of paper medical records to electronic medical records (EMR) is steadily growing among doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to our 2007 membership survey.

By Rob Ritter

Membership interest in the transfer of paper medical records to electronic medical records (EMR) is steadily growing among doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to our 2007 membership survey.

Approximately eighty-seven per cent of respondents said the NLMA should get more involved in the province-wide implementation of EMRs. Twenty-five per cent of survey respondents said they were interested in using EMR in their practices, but felt they lacked sufficient knowledge or funding to move forward.

Indeed, provincial government funding for EMR seems to be the avenue followed by those jurisdictions across the country that are the most advanced.

For example, in 2006 the BCMA and the provincial health ministry established the Physician Information Technology Office. It was granted $108 million to be delivered incrementally to physicians who agreed to sign on to provincially-sanctioned EMR systems. OntarioMD, a subsidiary of the Ontario Medical Association, also receives provincial government funding to build a province-wide EMR system.

Historically, physicians in this province have been reluctant to invest in IT upgrades such as new EMR systems. For many physicians the sheer installation costs for connecting their clinics to EMR systems are prohibitive, especially given the upfront costs associated with equipment and licensing fees.

On a positive note, twenty-four members who completed the survey said they have already implemented EMR software in their practices for administrative purposes and 67 respondents are using EMRs for both administrative and clinical purposes. While these statistics are encouraging, they are an indication that the journey towards a province-wide computerized physician network has a long way to go.

The future of EMR adoption in the province will require more than just an organizational and cultural shift in the way physicians manage their practices. In order to promote the province-wide implementation of electronic medical records, physicians must be compensated for some of the costs.

The NLMA is working with government to move forward with a definitive cost-sharing arrangement for EMRs for physician offices and clinics, and is asking that early adopters be included in any arrangements retroactively.

Government is currently reviewing an options paper that was commissioned to present recommendations for implementing EMRs for physicians across the province in the coming years. The province’s plan to increase EMR adoption, including the roll-out of a funding arrangement, is expected to be implemented in the spring of next year, facilitated by NLCHI and the NLMA.



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Nexus is published quarterly for Newfoundland and Labrador's physicians. It is a forum for the exchange of views, ideas and information for members.