What Are EHR and EMR Incentives and Penalties?

Electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems are revolutionizing the medical profession, so much so that the federal government has decided to reward doctors who set up these systems and punish those who do not.

For the rest of this post, we will use the term EHR and not EMR, as EHR systems are more comprehensive, and they include EMR systems. EMR systems, which predate EHR systems, are simply electronic versions of patients’ medical information: health charts, results from checkups, and all of the other items that doctors used to store in office file cabinets before the advent of computers.

On the other hand, EHR systems are sophisticated, secure databases which include all of those EMR records, but which also let doctors, lab technicians and healthcare providers manage and share information with one other. As such, a patient’s EHR records will stay with him or her from infancy to a nursing home, no matter where he or she might live in the interim.

What is the Benefit to Doctors Using the EHR System?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, popularly known as “the stimulus,” provided monetary incentives to doctors all over the country to buy EHR systems. This has come to be know as EHR and EMR incentives. More precisely, doctors need to purchase an EHR system and then be able to prove that they are using it in a significant way.

Of course, as a doctor you are responsible for paying for the initial cost of setting up your EHR system; you are only eligible for stimulus money after this system is up and running within your practice.

If you applied for one of these reimbursement packages in either 2011 or 2012, you were eligible to receive up to $44,000 from Medicare, or up to $48,400 from Medicare if you work in a region that is impoverished. Or you would be eligible to receive $64,000 in EHR reimbursement funds from Medicaid.

These payments would come in five installments, one installment per year for five consecutive years. For example, the $44,000 package from Medicare would be broken down as follows:

  • $18,000 the first year
  • $12,000 the second year
  • $8000 the third year
  • $4000 the fourth year
  • $2000 the fifth and final year.

These financial incentives are decreasing every year, however. So if you apply for the Medicare EHR program in 2013, you only receive $15,000 the first year, and if you apply in 2014, the initial payout shrinks to $12,000. And as of the start of 2017, these reimbursements will no longer exist.

If a doctor chooses not to implement an EHR system in his or her office, he or she not only misses out on this reimbursement opportunity, but also risks financial penalty. That is, if a doctor is without an EHR system, the government will take a way one percent of his or her reimbursement from Medicare, thus missing out on any EHR and EMR incentives.

Come 2016, the government will withhold two percent of Medicare funds from EHR-less doctors, and three percent in 2017. In 2018 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will look into how many doctors have EHR systems in place. And if fewer than 75% of American doctors are using this kind of a system, then a full five percent of Medicare funds may be withheld from the doctors who are not participating.

Fortunately, converting to an EHR system does not have to be difficult. There are several companies that specialize in software for EHR and EMR incentives.  MedicalRecords.com, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one such provider and can help obtain the right software.

In upcoming posts we’ll look at this conversion process, how you can implement an  EHR system in compliance with the federal government’s recommendations, and specific benefits an EHR system can offer you and your patients helping you qualify for EHR and EMR incentives.

Searchbug offers some missing pieces to the puzzle and helps make patient phone numbers even more meaningful thereby making the EHR and EMR incentives even more attractive.   If you’d like to find out how the Searchbug phone identification service can help make your medical records more meaningful please feel free to call us at 800-990-2939 and ask about  our phone number ID service.

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