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Late to EHR? Financial Incentives Are Still Available

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In 2009, Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to promote the adoption and Meaningful Use of health information technology. The Act not only provided financial incentives for practitioners who implemented the Meaningful Use of certified electronic health records (EHR) software in their practices between its passing and 2014, but it also reduces Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for those who cannot document “Meaningful Use” of such a system by 2015.

The bottom line is that the sooner ECPs implement EHR, the sooner they will receive financial incentives (see chart). Waiting until after 2015 will result in financial penalties every year.

As the chart illustrates, ECPs who haven’t installed an EHR yet have already missed out on receiving the full $44,000 worth of available incentive payments, but there’s still time to receive lower incentive payments by implementing EHR in 2013 or 2014.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has authorized five organizations to certify EHR software. They are the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, the Drummond Group, ICSA Labs, InfoGuard Laboratories and Orion Register.

In addition to using a certified EHR system, ECPs must demonstrate “Meaningful Use.” All providers begin participating by meeting the Stage 1 requirements for a 90-day period in their first year of Meaningful Use and a full year in their second year of Meaningful Use. After meeting the Stage 1 requirements, providers will then have to meet Stage 2 requirements for two full years. A complete description of all of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements can be found on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website at www.cms.gov.