There are many reasons why the federal government decided to push physicians toward electronic health record (EHR) adoption as part of the Health Information Technology for Economical and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).
With easy-to-access digital files, doctors can record notes during appointments to ensure accuracy. That capability will also provide them with insight into data entered by other physicians, so they can approach treatment with a more complete understanding of a patient’s current condition and health history. Health IT software can also alert doctors of adverse effects when multiple medications are prescribed – something that might require more cross-referencing when practices rely on paper charts.
However, the stimulus payments being offered to practices that make the switch and attest for meaningful use might prove a more effective incentive. To offset the costs of investing in EHR software and the reduced efficiency while doctors adjust their workflow, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are issueing hospitals and eligible professionals financial incentives.
Medicare payments for EHR adoption
The CMS is offering $44,000 for every physician who adopts an EHR and proves they are using the systems meaningfully in daily operations to achieve the goals set forth by the organizations.
Eligible providers include medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, dental surgeons and dentists, chiropractors, optometrists and podiatrists. According to the CMS’ April 2012 report, doctors and osteopaths had the greatest number of registered practitioners – 156,172. Of those, 49,757 have received payments.
Optometrists had the second highest number of providers registered, with 6,905, but they were third in payments at 2,339, behind podiatrists.
It was recently announced that chiropractors are now fourth in the running. By the time the report was released, 1,249 practitioners had received checks for meaningful use, totaling $16.5 million.
Medicaid payments for providers using health IT
The CMS is also offering larger payments to eligible providers through Medicaid. Primary care providers, osteopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists, certified nurse-midwives and select physicians assistants can earn up to $63,750 through the program.
As of April, more than 78,398 eligible professionals had registered and 35,000 received incentive payments, the majority of which were physicians, followed by nurse practitioners.
Doctors might receive penalties if they don’t adopt in time
Unfortunately, healthcare providers that qualify for Medicare payments might receive penalties if they do not implement an EHR by the 2016 deadline. Medicare payments will be penalized 1 percent in 2016 and will increase every year, reaching 5 percent by 2020.