If you’re a small physician practice struggling with implementing the bells and whistles – or is it wires and widgets – of electronic health records (EHR), take heart: last week, David Blumenthal, national Health IT coordinator, pledged to pay special attention to individual physicians and small group practices as the stimulus package takes effect. Although almost a quarter of physicians currently use EHRs, only 13 percent of small practices use the technology.
Blumenthal said the feds will be asking small practices to voice their concerns about the stimulus provisions through nationwide listening centers; regional centers will also be established to help healthcare providers implement EHRs, with a special focus on small physician practices.
But what is “meaningful use” of EHRs? These two key words were also being examined last week, as health IT standards committees will discuss exactly what this criteria is, with a definition expected in the next month. To qualify as a meaningful user – and thus the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments, almost certainly e-prescribing, interoperability, and electronic exchange of medical records will be part of the criteria. Beginning in 2011, physicians who demonstrate “meaningful use” of EHRs will qualify for up to $44,000 in Medicare incentive payments, with penalties taking effect in 2014.
Stay posted as to what “meaningful use” will mean for you. The AMA, for one, is urging a “reasonable, scalable and flexible” starting point that a solo practitioner will be able to handle. We can only hope.
Cindy Atoji is a Boston-based journalist who specializes in technology, business, and healthcare news coverage. A former Boston Herald editor, Cindy blogs for the Globe and BodiMojo.com, and writes for various national publications. Visit her Website at www.CindyAtoji.com.