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Contributing Writer · Oct 13, 2011

When it comes to EHR, podiatrists put their best foot forward

Among the Eligible Professionals who are going for federal incentive payments for Meaningful Use, podiatrists rank high among early adopters. In a recent article describing this observation, an analysis of the very first Meaningful Use payments made in May showed that 12% of recipients were podiatrists – even though this specialty makes up only 1.5% of Medicare physicians and practitioners.

The article goes on to describe how this is no accident. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has made a “very directed effort” to educate its members about Health IT and Meaningful Use. In fact, it was APMA lobbying that resulted in inclusion of podiatrists (DPMs) among the list of Eligible Professionals that could participate in Meaningful Use.

Such efforts to mobilize its members by the APMA has been paying off. Podiatry, like many other disciplines (including Primary Care), is generally composed of solo and small-group practices, functioning independently of hospitals or other large organizations. Documentation needs, as well as e-prescribing, are similar among podiatrists as compared to other medical specialties. And the need for a low-cost, easily-deployed EHR is felt as pressingly here as anywhere.

Small wonder that podiatrists have been signing up for Practice Fusion in droves, and have been among our most enthusiastic proponents. Among “super users” of our EHR, podiatrists represent about 5.2% of such high-end users – significantly higher than the 1.5% proportion of health professionals that podiatrists represent.

Lessons for other specialties
Podiatrists have been front-and-center with respect to Health IT and EHR adoption, as our own experience corroborates. Efforts by their professional association is likely a big part of this, creating a cultural environment among its profession that embraces this technology. The result is that their EHR usage, and Meaningful Use payouts, are proportionately higher than other disciplines.

Can other disciplines learn from this experience? Hopefully so. What is needed is for a particular healthcare discipline to create a cultural environment that embraces EHR technology. This comes from the professional associations. It also comes from rank-and-file clinicians, and the way they engage each other. It involves conferences, webinars and other social-media methods of getting the word out, and encouraging use. It means focusing on the question of “how can we get there?” rather than “what are the roadblocks?”

The efforts of podiatrist should be applauded, examined and shared among other disciplines. Their uptake of EHRs, particularly when the barriers are removed by the availability of web-based, same-day-signup EHRs (like Practice Fusion), is something that can be described as a “beacon discipline.” We encourage all healthcare disciplines to embrace this e-frontier with equal enthusiasm.