Electronic Health Record systems on the rise in West Michigan

November 23, 2009
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It’s amazing what people will do for a Klondike Bar, but what will they do for a piece of the $20 billion stimulus pie allocated for Health Information Technology assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?

The Grand Valley State University Family Health Center hired Laurel Jackson.

Jackson, who has a master’s in health administration and in public administration was brought on in June 2009 as the health center’s practice manager to help implement an electronic health record system to make the center eligible for the HIT stimulus money.

The center is a pediatric and family practice nurse practitioner center and employs no doctors. It is eligible for up to $63,750, if 25 percent of its patient volume is from Medicaid. It must also prove it is meaningfully using a certified electronic health record system.

Jackson said that many people assume it would be a breeze to implement such a system, but that is not the case — especially for GVSU Family Health Center.

“They had no Internet, no computer system, no e-mail,” she said. “They had nothing, and they were so used to running that way that it literally didn’t even phase them. I started from scratch, and ended up connecting with Trivalent.”

Trivalent Group is a Grandville-based IT and bandwidth solutions provider. It walked GVSU Family Health Center through the electronic health record system’s installation.

Both Jackson and Trivalent have witnessed the recent growth of the systems in West Michigan.

“Our largest vertical market penetration and 22 percent of our business in 2008 was health care,” said Larry Andrus, CEO at Trivalent Group. “We are really focused on the practice management area and EHR.”

Andrus said that Trivalent Group has narrowed down its niche to smaller practices.

“The bigger hospitals have their own staff in place and have the opportunity to handle (IT and EHR) with their own staff. The rest of the practitioners … don’t typically have a large staff to do this type of implementation. That is where we can provide a lot of value.”

The staf at the GVSU health center did a week’s worth of training toward the end of September and then the system was launched.

Already, it has had an incredible impact.

“Besides the patient charting and all that, you can get a really good billing and collection system. It will turn around your revenue,” said Jackson, who has implemented similar systems in other practices. “The last company I did this with had around a 120 percent increase in one year.”

She explained that since it is all electronic, the turnaround time for claims speeds up drastically.

“Your accounts receivable start coming in within two weeks. It changes everything. If you’re sending paper claims, those can take a really long time,” she said.

“Those are some of the things about these EHRs that people don’t realize. They’re real practice management applications.”

One of the important features for an EHR system is how it tracks and collects data to help practices prove their eligibility for reimbursement from the ARRA funds.

“Because we’re a nurse practitioner site, there isn’t a lot of qualitative and quantitative data measured, so it’s really hard to get reimbursed, grants and government funding,” she said.

Jackson said the system will also help the center receive reimbursements from insurance companies. Since the center only employs nurses, insurance companies do not consider the center a provider. With the EHR system, the center will be able to prove its level of care

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