Financial Incentives to Adopt EHR

Congress has allotted “Stimulus Money” to pay qualified medical providers to “meaningfully use” EHR. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act establishes criteria for Meaningful Use of EHR and has implemented a program of incentives to help expedite the adoption of this technology.

Eligible professionals can receive as much as:

  • $44,000 over a five-year period under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program
  • $63,750 over six years under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program

“More than 4 in 5 office-based physicians could qualify for new federal incentive payments based on the numbers of Medicare or Medicaid patients they see” according to a recent article in Health Affairs (Brian K. Bruen, 2011).

Outlook for EHR implementation is high and adoption rates are growing rapidly. However, very few practices have implemented fully functional EHRs.

According to the most recent results from the National Center for Health Statistics Survey of IT adoption in physician practices:

  • 50.7% of physicians reported using all or partial EMR/EHR systems
  • 24.9% reported having systems that met the criteria of a basic system, and
  • 10.1% reported having systems that met the criteria of a fully functional system. (National Center For Health Statistics, 2010).

Why EHR Makes IT a Critical and Essential Component to Your Practice

THE NEW REALITY

Once a practice runs the gauntlet of EHR implementation and emerges successfully from the other side, more difficulties lie ahead. A successful system means that all aspects of a practice are integrated into a streamlined, technology- centric solution. This is an efficient way to run a successful business, yet the challenge is: the practice is 100% reliant upon its technology infrastructure. This reliance is new, and it is imperative the practice understand the implications of it.

THE OLD WAY WON’T WORK ANYMORE

Traditionally, there has been a culture of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ in medical practices regarding computers and network infrastructure. This mentality was used in the ‘break-fix’ approach to IT support. In this model, practices would wait for a problem to arise, then have either an internal employee or outside IT professional fix the issue. Because the system was not mission critical, they could afford the time it took to fix and respond to the problem.

MAXIMIZE UPTIME

Today the break-fix model is a very risky method for dealing with IT related issues, and is a dangerous strategy for any practice to depend on. A break-fix solution is contingent on the availability of help, recognition of the problem, and the amount of problems at any given time. These variables can cause a tremendous lag in response time, and can lead to hours if not days of downtime for your practice. This is a costly, ineffective way to manage a business.

START WITH PREVENTION

Preventive maintenance is the best way to maximize uptime. Practices need to take a preemptive approach to track down and eliminate problems.

IT professionals provide preventive maintenance through systematic inspections, detection, and correction of early failures either before they occur or before they develop into major problems.

Similar to preventive medicine, preventive maintenance aims to avoid damage at the outset rather than treating problems which become too destructive to ignore. Not only does a strong maintenance strategy improve uptime and prevent disasters from occurring, but it also is an effective way to lower IT costs and operating risk.