Considering EHRs? Don’t Wait for “Meaningful Use”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—better known as the stimulus bill—provides approximately $19 billion in incentives over a five-year period for “eligible professionals” who are “meaningful users” of “qualified” electronic health record (EHR) systems.
If your practice is waiting for the government to define those terms before implementing an EHR system, health care IT experts say you’re wasting valuable time.
Besides, President and CEO of the Certification Commission for Health Information and Technology Mark Leavitt, MD tells Healthcare IT News, “The major parameters are actually written into the bill. It has to be a certified EHR, it has to include e-prescribing, it has to be able to exchange information and it has to be able to report quality data.”
The Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) definition of meaningful use, published April 24, recommends that EHRs enable “electronic exchange of standardized patient data with clinical and administrative stakeholders,” provide “clinicians with clinical knowledge and intelligently-filtered patient information to enhance patient care,” and offer “capabilities to support process and care measurement that drive improvements in patient safety, quality outcome, and cost reduction.”
As for who exactly qualifies: Sect. 1861(r) of the bill says simply that an “eligible professional” is a physician.
“I’m not sure if we have to know more than that—if you are a provider—to be able to make a technology investment now,” said Leavitt, who recently testified on meaningful use before the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics.
According to the bill, enacted Feb. 17, physicians who are meaningful users of certified EHRs can qualify for up to $15,000 the first year ($18,000 if the first payment year is 2011 or 2012); $12,000 the second year; $8,000 the third year; $4,000 the fourth year; and $2,000 the fifth year. Physicians who predominately furnish services in a designated health professional shortage area can qualify for an extra 10 percent.
The well runs dry, however, after 2014—less than five years away.