From paper to electronic: economic stimulus offers electronic health record incentives.

Author:Sappington, Mike
Position:Health Care Trends
 
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The healthcare resources in our region and our area's healthcare professionals are among the most elite in the nation. Many, in fact, are pioneers in their fields and experts in a range of specialties that include orthopedics, pediatrics and psychiatry. However, most of our local doctors have been slow to adopt the latest electronic health record (EHR) technology, which has been proven to improve care and increase efficiency in office administration. It's odd to consider, but the average grocery store or restaurant has more technology in it than the typical physician's office.

Change has come to healthcare IT

For Michigan's doctors, there is now great opportunity for change. The HITECH Act within the economic stimulus legislation offers doctors $30 billion in incentives to implement an EHR. Title IV, Subtitle A outlines a payment structure in which doctors who use "certified" EHR technology in a "meaningful way" will receive $44,000 each in incentives through Medicare beginning in 2011. Doctors first adopting EHR technology after 2014 are not eligible for incentive payments and no payments will be made after 2016.

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While the legislation leaves the definition of "certification" up to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, many people believe that the government will adopt specifications included in current testing through the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT). "Meaningful use" is defined specifically in the Act as an EHR that:

* Includes electronic prescribing functionality

* Allows for the exchange of health information data

* Is able to report on clinical quality measures.

Unlike most governmental appropriations, the Medicare dollars outlined in the HITECH Act will flow directly to doctors, essentially giving them the resources needed to fund their EHR purchase.

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Making the right purchase for your practice

Since there are many EHRs on the market, choosing the right one might seem difficult. It needn't be; local doctors should follow these important steps to ensure that their transition from paper to electronic records is a smooth one.

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