The U.S. government plans to allocate roughly $27 billion during the first half of this decade as part of the federal economic recovery package to encourage digital conversion to EHR systems, also referred to as electronic health records (EHRs). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Program includes both incentives and penalties with incentive payments beginning in 2011 and offered through 2016. Payment penalties begin in 2015 at 1% of the providers Medicare Part B fee schedule and will increase to a 5% adjustment by 2020.
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Explore This IssueDecember 2011
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The medical world is going digital, but for many, getting there is a rough road.
This is the first year that providers who meet certification for meaningful use of electronic records can apply for federal money to help with the transition to electronic data capture for more efficient patient care. Wide-scale digital conversion is a multilayered undertaking involving hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers across the country. The mission is to reduce errors and increase efficiency, and improve the overall U.S. healthcare system with computer-assisted analysis of shared information on medical conditions and diseases nationwide.
Some in the trenches say the size and uncertainty of the task leaves them frequently aggravated or reluctant to even get started.
Taking the First Steps
Wasser says she just wants to get through the set-up process so she can begin to attest to meaningful use. To be eligible for the incentives, a provider must register and show meaningful use of its EHR system for 90 consecutive days during the provider’s first reporting year and the entire calendar year thereafter.
Earlier this year, James Singleton, MD, a rheumatologist based in Denver, decided to take part in the program. His practice already had an EHR system in place that was certified to meet the standards supporting the meaningful use objectives so he thought, “Why not go ahead and get involved now and get it done?” Devoting the time to fully understand the government requirements was crucial to completing the process, says Dr. Singleton. “I didn’t talk to anybody. I just did a lot of reading and rereading to figure it out.”
The first stage of the meaningful use program sets forth a listing of objectives and measures addressing the collection of structured data to support patient engagement, care coordination, quality improvement, and clinical decision support.
Craig W. Carson, MD, an Oklahoma-based rheumatologist, backed off of his plans to implement meaningful use at the beginning of 2012 after deciding that the office would benefit more from focusing on e-prescribing and Physician Quality Reporting Initiative incentive programs.