EHR Incentive Program Blog Series: An Introduction

During the month of December, HMS Healthcare Management Solutions, Inc. will kick off our latest blog series on the EHR Incentive Program for certain healthcare providers. In this introduction, we’ll provide background information on the CMS program.

The EHR Incentive Program provides incentive payments for certain healthcare providers that use EHR technology in ways that positively affect patient care. An electronic health record (EHR), sometimes called an electronic medical record (EMR), allows providers to record patient information electronically instead of relying on paper records. It’s important to note that EHRs are capable of doing more than recording information. The EHR Incentive Program asks providers to use the capabilities to achieve benchmarks that can lead to improved patient care. However, it is not an reimbursement program for purchasing or replacing an EHR and providers must meet specific requirements in order to receive incentive payments.

Stay tuned to the HMS blog as we delve deeper into the EHR Incentive Program, its requirements and its impact on providers.

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Bill Seeks To Create Additional Hardship Exemptions

Federal lawmakers have introduced legislation requiring the federal government to offer more hardship exemptions to physicians to stop Medicare payment cuts for failing to meet electronic health records (EHR) meaningful use standards. The proposed bill would create additional hardship exemptions for single-doctor practices and physicians approaching retirement. Current exemptions are available for physicians and health professionals who:

  • Have insufficient Internet access or who face insurmountable barriers to obtaining infrastructure, such as high-speed or broadband Internet.
  • Begin practicing in 2015.
  • Encounter unforeseen circumstances, such as a natural disaster or other unforeseeable barrier.
  • Lack face-to-face interaction with patients or follow-up opportunities with patients.
  • Practice in multiple locations and do not control access to EHRs during more than 50% of patient encounters.

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Most Docs Not Ready For EHRs

According to a national survey of practicing physicians, less than 1 in 10 doctors used electronic health records (EHRs) to U.S. standards last year. In addition, only 9.8% of 1,820 primary-care and specialty doctors said they had electronic systems that met the rules for meaningful use and less than than half all those surveyed had any system already in place.

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$12.3 Billion In EHR Incentive Payments

With some healthcare providers now into their second year of meaningful use reporting, Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record payments have been estimated at $12.3 billion through February since the program’s inception. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will post the final figures later this month.

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Meaningful Use Monday: Stage 2 EHR Standards More Stringent

Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements, finalized late August by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), mandates doctors meet a larger number of core objectives during the next part of the three-stage program. Physicians also must adopt and demonstrate meaningful use of EHR systems by October 1, 2014, or be assessed a 1% penalty from Medicare.

Though CMS officials carved out several hardship exceptions to the noncompliance penalties,some which will require the reporting physician to complete an application prior to the penalty’s assessment, physician practices will be required to achieve more difficult objectives to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health records to earn federal bonuses and prevent future penalties.

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EHRs Linked To Fewer Liability Claims

As physicians continue to adopt EHRs to meet meaningful use requirements, research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found the rate of liability claims was one-sixth the rate when EHRs were used as opposed to when they were not used. The findings suggest a reduction in errors associated with EHR use.

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HMS Healthcare Management Solutions can help your practice achieve meaningful use requirements with our fully integrated, affordable, cloud-based EHR solutions. Contact us to see how our consulting and revenue cycle management assists healthcare providers each and every day!