The government wants to shift the health industry into the digital age and has provided reimbursement incentives and an electronic medical records deadline for those who adopt electronic medical records (EMR). However, as with all government benefits, this electronic medical records mandate comes with strings attached. For those who do not meet the electronic medical records deadline for implementation, the government has laid out a series of penalties.
No EMR /EHR Implementation Has a Price
For physicians who either have not adopted certified EHR / EMR systems or cannot demonstrate “meaningful use” by the EMR deadline in 2015, Medicare reimbursements will be reduced by 1%. The deduction rate increases in subsequent years by 2% in 2016, 3% in 2017, 4% in 2018, and up to 95% depending on future adjustments.
According to EMRandHipaa.com, an average AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) user is reimbursed 20% by Medicare. This means that overall, a private practice with $500,000 of annual income that fails to meet the electronic medical records mandate will lose $1000 in payments in 2015, $2000 in 2016, and so on.
Meeting the government’s mandate and electronic medical records deadline will not be easy for everyone in the health industry. “Rural hospitals and small, independent physician practices will have a harder time meeting the [digital medical records] requirements,” writes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But the incentives and potential penalties under the Recovery Act have made it clear that they no longer can put off the challenging task of parting with their paper charts.”
Digital Medical Records Incentive
On the other hand, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, physicians can receive up to $44,000 in Medicare incentive payments beginning in 2011 for implementing EMR systems. Physicians must be able to demonstrate “meaningful use.” The “meaningful use” standard is measured in stages. Stage 1 started in 2011 and ends in 2012. It requires that providers meet 14 to 15 core requirements and choose five more from a menu of 10 options. Some of these requirements include electronic file system for all patients’ health records, medical billing system, and transcription services. Physicians will have until end of 2014 to meet Stage 2. Stage 3 has yet to be defined.
EMR Software Implementation Can Help Avoid Penalties
In order to avoid being penalized, physicians should prepare by understanding the EMR / EHR mandate, and knowing the process and requirements for implementing EMR systems. Experts predict that nearing mid-decade, there will be more physicians looking to implement EMR/EHR than the support staff of certified EMR / EHR software providers can handle. Since each physician’s digital medical records needs and requirements are different, the lead-time for a certified EMR software provider to plan, install, and implement a system is around 2-4 months. There is also typically 6-8 months of training needed for each physician in a practice to qualify as a “meaningful EHR user.” This does not include the time it takes to select an EMR software provider that is effective and efficient for the physician.