Group to train doctors on electronic records

Jane Larson The Arizona Republic Feb. 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Hoping to help doctors switch from manila folders to electronic health records, a Valley health care consulting group is launching a series of free training sessions on the new technology.

Health Services Advisory Group of Phoenix will offer an introduction to electronic health records, or EHRs, on Feb. 28 and a more detailed "EHR University" from March through June. The sessions are open to primary care physicians and their staffers in small to midsize practices.

The training is being offered free under the group's contract with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The firm runs the centers' Doctors' Office Quality Information Technology, or DOQ-IT, program for Arizona, which promotes electronic records and improving quality of patient care.

"Doctors need help sorting through all of the available information," said Scott Endsley, medical director of system design at Health Services Advisory Group. "EHRs will soon be an integral part of everyday practice operations. EHR University is designed to help physicians in Arizona prepare for when that day arrives."

Although financial services and airlines have embraced information technology, health care is probably the largest industry still wedded to paper records. But the push is on to change that.

President Bush has called for electronic medical records for most Americans by 2014, and Gov. Janet Napolitano has a committee working on that goal for Arizonans by 2010.

Supporters say electronic records would give physicians more information, improve decisions and reduce errors, especially in prescriptions.

But adoption has been slow, mainly because of the expense for small offices.

A survey last year by the advisory group found that just 13.5 percent of primary-care practices in Arizona keep health records electronically.

Another 25 to 30 percent were considering making the switch.

The Feb. 28 introductory session will discuss the pros and cons of paper and electronic records and how the DOQ-IT program can help doctors make the transition.

The five-week programs are designed to give physicians and their staffs a step-by-step process for going electronic.

They will cover topics ranging from assessing a practice's readiness to selecting a system and using it to improve patient care.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8280.

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