Healthcare providers know quite well that pending legislation and new regulations can have a profound effect on them and their patients.
The IDC-10 requirement deadline in 2013 is looming, and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 -- which covers digital record-keeping with electronic health records (EHRs) -- has multiple cutoff dates; some in 2012 and others that stretch to 2015.
Compliance deadlines can put pressure on providers, but the HITECH Act comes with an unusual gift: government cash incentives for providers accepting Medicare or Medicaid.
For early adopters and those who comply by the required dates to implement an approved EHR system in their practice, hospital, or long-term care center, the incentives can be significant.
- Medicare: Eligible professionals for the EHR Incentive Program can receive up to $44,000 over a five-year period. Additional incentives may be available for providers in health shortage areas (HSPAs). Hospitals also are eligible for incentive payments -- starting with a $2 million base payment -- if certain factors are met. Registration and participation for Medicare-eligible professionals must begin now -- in 2012. And meaningful use does not have to be demonstrated until 2015, so there’s time to meet those criteria.
- Medicaid: Providers eligible for Medicaid payments can receive up to $63,750, even though the program is voluntary and provided at the state or territory level. If you have questions about incentives, contact your state Medicaid agency for assistance. Find your state on the list from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
However, benefits can mean more than just cash. With EHRs, healthcare providers also can see gains in patient care.
In a recent case study, Tom Hornburg, IT director at Mason General Hospital, said, “Technology makes patient care more efficient, making for better outcomes. We’ll be able to meet all of the Stage 1 criteria for Meaningful Use that HITECH requires... and we’ll receive the maximum reimbursement in stimulus funds.”
And Mason General has seen other benefits. Server virtualization has eliminated hardware maintenance downtime. The datacenter enjoys easy deployment for new servers. A bonus: Less physical space is needed for the couple of servers it needs to run its 40 virtual machines.
But the time efficiencies have been the best -- for the hospital and the patients.
“More timely access to information directly impacts patient care, because we’re able to view trends and benchmarks and react faster,” Hornburg said.
That’s where the benefits of using EHRs are visible. And having extra funds to help pay for EHRs doesn’t hurt either.
Read how IT efficiency saved an hour and a half each day for Mason General Hospital’s ER users in a related post: In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters.
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