EHR Incentive Payments and Practical Implementation Issues

Today’s discussion on EHR incentive payments and implementation included a lot of issues that regular MDNG readers are familiar with: HITECH, “meaningful use,” and annual incentives. Although it may seem like the same old song and dance, the reality is that all those dates you’ve been hearing about are fast approaching.

“Lawmakers wrote EHR incentive plans at 3 in the morning — there are lots of gaps.” – David Schoolcraft

Today’s discussion on EHR incentive payments and implementation included a lot of issues that regular MDNG readers are familiar with: HITECH, “meaningful use,” and annual incentives. Although it may seem like the same old song and dance, the reality is that all those dates you’ve been hearing about are fast approaching. For those of you looking for a Meaningful Use timeline, here’s a cheat sheet for you:

2009: HITECH policies; HHS to define terms and issue regulations

2011: Capture/Share Data; Incentive payments

2013: Advanced care processes with decision support

2015: Improved Outcomes; Penalties

Presenter David Schoolcraft works at Ogden Murphy Wallace, PLLC, and specializes in helping physicians implement EHRs that aren’t going to leave them in disarray down the road, a problem that happens all too frequently. He didn’t reveal any new groundbreaking information; this session just served as a refresher course for those who needed answers to some timeline questions, and also as an educational activity for those physicians that have been procrastinating a bit. However, Schoolcraft made some excellent points that all attendees took to heart. He told the audience that, if they were to take one thing away from his presentation, it should be that many EHR companies seem like an excellent fit for physicians who are looking to implement right now and cash in on those early incentives. Unfortunately, many physicians ignore some of the fine print, and this results in a loss of money and time. Schoolcraft stressed that physicians need to speak with a representative from a vendor who can guarantee that the EHR they are providing will be able to evolve as rules and regulations evolve. Because, after all, what’s the point of getting incentive payments for two years if you are going to have to uninstall your EHR in three years and start over because it won’t reach “meaningful use” requirements down the line?

Schoolcraft then handed it over to Rosemarie Nelson, MGMA Healthcare Consulting Group, who focuses on best practices for EHR implementation. She began by explaining that many of the physicians she works with don’t even know what they are looking for in an EHR when they first look for one, and that it is a major problem. Physicians need to know what features they are looking for and they need to evaluate properly. Another problem is that physicians can sometimes “buy the sales team” instead of “buying the support staff.” When problems arise, and they will, it’s important that you have people who can help you quickly resolve them. Another good piece of advice that Nelson gave was that physicians should seek the advice of peers who have gone through the implementation process. Judging by the looks of physicians around the room, a lot of good advice was given in this presentation and it did not fall on deaf ears.

Nelson gave a great analogy to the physicians in the audience who are getting ready to embark on their EHR implementation journey. She said to think of implementing an EHR as approaching a traffic light. Obviously everyone knows that green means go and red means stop. The problem with physicians is the yellow light. Nelson cautiously told the audience that if they see a yellow light, to stop and re-evaluate. “Too many physicians punch the gas and blow through the light!”