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.

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5 Responses to “Considering EHRs? Don’t Wait for “Meaningful Use””

  1. Barbara Cobuzzi says:

    How much is it going to cost a practice that purchases and implements an EHR before it has gotten the CMS definition of a “certified” EHR, to upgrade or convert to a fully CMS CERTIFIED EHR once that has been defined. Are we putting the cart before the horse? Not only does the system cost in hardware and software, but the cost of implementation is high. The “interoperability” standards have not been defined, are they HL7, is it going to be another standard, is your vendor going to be able to support whatever sky blue it ends up being and how much is it going to cost you? As much as we don’t want to lose the first year incentives, the government is offering money to practices who buy a building before the plans have been developed, but the conditions of receiving the money is to have the building fully built. It just does not make sense the way the government is going about this and jumping aboard this ship does not make sense to me.

    In this same Edge Blast, there is an article about how hospitals are hesitant to implement EHR’s due to privacy requirements from the states. If hospitals, who have more cash than physicians groups are hesitant to dive into this pool, why are physicians being encouraged to dive into this very shallow water?

    Just my thoughts.

  2. PAM PALMER says:

    You may check with your local hospital that you network with, the Federal Goverment has allowed them to support physician and help offset the cost of setting up EMR’s with financial support to the physicians with software implamentation. We worked with our local hospital and they paid 50% of the software cost; but every hospital is different and they will only accept limited amount of physicians. We were one of the first physician accepted into the program. It was a great way to help the physicians get on board and act early with the EMR. Not to say caution on what EMR you select. They only show you certain portions and it can be very hard to learn and adapt if you have a very busy practice.

  3. Jamie Zayach says:

    Watch for the whole “certified” EHR from CCHIT. CCHIT certifies each “version” that an EMR/EHR company deploys. If version 5.0 of their product is certified, and you purchase 6.0, it may or may not be a “CCHIT Certified” version and so you need to make sure you’re getting a certified version in order for financial assistance, in most cases. If you go to the CCHIT website, they will list all of the certified vendors and the version(s) of their product that are certified.

  4. Barbara Myjak says:

    Even the so called “certified” versions of EMRs do not all provide an acceptable audit trail of who did what when in a physician’s office. Physicians who purchase EMRs need to be careful to ask key questions about the system’s capabilities when purchasing EMR systems. They could be left with a problem if their EMR is audited or investigated by a private insurance company.

  5. Sean T Henry says:

    The practice I work for has used MedAZ.net since 2005 and in 2006 they received CCHIT certification. I believe that they also hold a certification in Canada.

    We have survived audits from private insurance companies, we get HL7 records from the hospital, it has the billing portion built in. The only thing it is missing currently is the option to e-prescribe but it should be up and running next month once the intermediary finishes the approval/registration portion.

    Also from what I remember the hardware and software were free we just pay a monthly fee.

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