The numbers for incentives available to physicians for EHR adoption in the HITECH act have been quoted anywhere from 17 billion to 19 billion. Two weeks into the reign of the current Healthcare IT Czar, Dr. David Blumenthal – no one is really sure what defines “meaningful use” of an EHR system – or who the official certifying body for federally recognized EHRs will be. The landscape is at best muddy, at worst totally confusing. And now the head of one of the leading trade associations for group practices is advising that their membership take a “wait and see approach” to EHR Adoption. (By the way the most generally accepted as accurate chart of the complete breakdown of the incentives can be found in the current issue of EHR Scope Magazine).
William Jessee, M.D., president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, (MGMA) said recently “since so many questions about the stimulus package’s details remain unanswered, clinics should wait to see all follow-up regulations before plotting [an EHR implementation] strategy.
His statement comes on the heels of an analysis produced by a company called Melamedia which surmised that due to conflicts with existing HIPAA HIT upgrade requirements, the incentives may actually provide very little in defraying the cost of an EHR implementation. HIPAA mandated certain HIT upgrades that needed to be in place by 2012 and 2013. These mandates where put in effect prior to the HITECH act. Now, Health IT professionals fear that in their haste to obtain the Federal Incentives by adopting EHRs prior to 2011, physicians and facilities run the risk of installing systems that may, or may not satisfy the prior mandates which must be in effect in the following two years.
Jessee wants to be clear that MGMA is in total support of it’s membership embracing conversion to EHRs – he just wants physicians to proceed with caution. The last thing anybody wants to do is implement an electronic health record only to find out it doesn’t meet the federal requirements,” Jessee says. “That could be a career-limiting decision.” Jessee says his organization is among those that are pushing the Department of Health and Human Services to come up with a definitive checklist of what defines “meaningful use” as described in The Act.
As far as when there might actually be such a list? To put it in Dr. Jessee’s own words “we will just have to wait and see…”