Funding EMRs Without Meaningful Use Dollars

Not everyone is eligible for meaningful use funding, but physicians still interested in getting an EMR for their practice can look to trading partners for funding.

Just deciding to upgrade your practice’s technology with electronic medical records (EMR), is only half the battle as these systems aren’t cheap to install and set up. Luckily, some practices and hospitals qualify for meaningful use funding. Unfortunately, there are still plenty who aren’t eligible.

Not having access to meaningful use funding doesn’t mean physicians can just ignore EMRs. Depending on specialty or location, physicians might not be able to avoid the costs of setting up an EMR as coordination of care becomes a top priority.

According to Dave Caldwell, executive vice president of Certify Data Systems, a health information technology provider, physicians need to consider the importance of an EMR to their practice as a business.

“Where does [an EMR] rank within the priorities of their practice?” Caldwell asks. “It’s like any other investment decision that you would make; how important is it for the current and future thriving of my business.”

Once physicians determine whether or not an EMR is vital, that’s when they can begin to find ways to fund the system. And the first thing to do is look to trading partners.

“You’re looking to get a large portion of your interoperability funded by other trading partners,” Caldwell says.

The vast majority of people funding interoperability in the community are a health care system, standalone hospital or hospital system, according to Caldwell. These organizations are willing to foot the bill because it’s in their best interests. A physician with an EMR set up is easier to do business with and can share clinical information.

For those physicians looking now to purchase an EMR, they need to make sure they aren’t purchasing the wrong system.

“What I find so often is that physicians or practice are not thinking about what it’s going to take to get interoperability with their trading partners and they make the purchase and they find out later that there are additional charges that they’re going to incur to create interfaces with different trading partners,” Caldwell says.

Once the EMR is in place, physicians should see some return on investment. For instance, Caldwell has seen a small practice with nurses spending their time re-keying in data were able to reallocate most of their time to patient care.

“So their return on their investment was providing better care to their patients,” he says. “They could see more patients in the day — obviously there’s a return on that.”

Some physicians and practices might decide that an EMR isn’t necessary for them right now because it’s not the best business move.

“It could very well be that they can continue the practice and earn a living and care for their patient population without doing health information exchange,” Caldwell says. “And I think that case will be fewer and fewer as we go forward into our future as a country. But that’s an individual decision that you have to look at your own parameters.”