Implementing the EHR: What You Need to Know About Penalties and Incentives

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, asserts the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), eligible professionals, which include the physician, physician's assistant, and staff, have benefited from the electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs. However, the penalty for foregoing the implementation of an EHR, which directly relates to online patient intake forms, the starting point of the electronic health record, grows more with each passing year. Practice managers and EPs need to understand how failure to implement an electronic health record will affect the course of business.

Under Financial Reimbursement Penalty

EPs may have avoided implementing an EHR for different reasons, such as financial hardship and inability to purchase software for use in the EHR. However, these providers have seen a decrease in annual CMS payments. This decrease in payments (penalty) increases by 1 percent per year until reaching a maximum penalty of 5 percent.

Meaningful Use & Incentive Payments

Meaningful use refers to how closely a practice interact with patients via the EHR.

Meaningful Use: Objective 5

In Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the incentive program, organizations received a supplemental payment from CMS if specific objectives were met, such as a primary care physician who scheduled a consultation for a patient to be seen in a specialist's office through an online patient intake form.

Meaningful Use: Objective 9

Objective 9 involves the use of a secure electronic messaging system to communicate with the patient. For 2016, at least one patient must be seen by the respective provider or EP during the EHR reporting period, the 2016 Calendar Year (CY), in response to a secure message sent by the patient to the EP or vice versa.

New Participants in the Incentive Program

If a practice began participating in the incentive program in 2015, the practice only needed to demonstrate meaningful use of the EHR in any 90-day period in 2015. However, new practices to the program will have the 2016 CY to demonstrate meaningful use and satisfy all other requirements to avoid a financial reimbursement penalty in 2017.

EPs can receive up to $63,750 in incentive payments over six years, explains  Yet, the deadline to start participation is 2016. If your practice has not implemented a HIPAA-compliant EHR, can you afford to sacrifice 5 percent of your Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement payments, without receiving any incentive support in implementing the EHR, by 2021?

Topics: HIPAA, Electronic Patient Forms

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