Thursday, October 27, 2011

Electronic Health Record: Can Physicians Ignore the HITECH Act?

Back in 2004, President George W. Bush decided that all physicians and hospitals should adopt electronic health record (HER) technology within 10 years. To do the math for you...that's 2014. If you haven't already started, now is the time to get your electronic health record system.

What is the HITECH Act?

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It's part of the Stimulus Bill, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. ARRA was not considered to be health care legislation, but a portion of it was devoted to the electronic health record vision of President George W. Bush. When President Barack Obama signed the Stimulus bill on February 17, 2009, it included Billion as incentive money for the adoption and the meaningful use of electronic health records. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is the sub-provision of ARRA which deals with health information technology.

EHRs are electronic medical records on steroids. Electronic medical records deal with automation within a facility. Electronic health records include HIPAA protection and the ability to exchange records between medical providers and pharmacies.

The HITECH Act passed in 2009 should not be confused with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed in 2010. PPACA, referred to as the Health Care Reform Bill has entirely different funding. Funding that has been bitterly contested. If, for some reason, this PPACA is repealed, it will not affect the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) electronic health record initiatives. Nor would it affect the incentive money allocated to help physicians and hospitals with the transition.

WIIFM? or What's In It For Me?

If you buy your EHR system now, you can qualify for some of the Billion that was appropriated in the HITECH Act. These CMS incentive funds will be paid in annual installments starting in 2011. Medicare doctors can receive a total of up to 44,000, paid over 4 years. Physicians qualifying for Medicaid incentives money can receive up to ,750 paid over 6 years.

ALERT: Medicare physicians need to act now. If you wait until 2013 to begin qualifying, your maximum incentive payments will be reduced.

What if I ignore the HITECH Act?

The penalties start in 2015. You're probably already thinking that you don't get paid enough from Medicare. Well, in 2015, your Medicare reimbursements will be reduced by 1%, in 2016 the reduction is 2% and by 2017 the reduction is 3%...That is, if you haven't implemented your system and /or met the meaningful use criteria.

But it could get worse. You and your medical practice are not in this alone. Penalties consider the adoption and meaningful use rates of all eligible health care providers. If less than 75% of all physicians are meaningfully using their electronic health record by 2018, the penalty is increased to 4%, and will top out at 5% reduction starting in 2019!

So another WIIFM is cost avoidance. So yes, you can ignore the HITECH Act. But, it's going to cost you to NOT implement an electronic health record system.

What's the good news?

More government money, to the tune of 7 million, has been allocated to Regional Extension Centers or RECs. Their task is to provide FREE assistance to primary care health care providers. They can help you qualify for your incentive money.

Electronic Health Record: Can Physicians Ignore the HITECH Act?

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