The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the “Stimulus Bill,” will provide physicians funds to acquire an Electronic Health Records system at no cost, but there are specific steps to take and various factors to consider.

The “Stimulus Bill,” signed into law on February 17th, allocates $19.2 billion to physicians as an incentive to adapt an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, as it establishes the “goal of utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014.” This is a tremendous increase in funding for EHR’s, as the US previously spent $125 Million to promote this initiative. The incentive now is structured in a manner to enable some physicians to receive an incentive amount providing an “excess” of $20,000 – $55,000 by acquiring a system.

To qualify and receive the full share of these funds, physicians must acquire and utilize a “certified” EHR in a “meaningful” way. A “certified” EHR has not yet been determined, but it is expected that the new Secretary of Health & Human Services will grant those that meet CCHIT Certified as approved EHR’s. “Meaningful” utilization has been initially defined by the legislation as meeting the three requirements;
– Utilizing Certified EHR Technology for Electronic Prescribing
– Utilizing EHR Technology that enables Health Information exchanged electronically
– Submission of Specific Information on a Schedule to be established by HHS

Physicians that acquire EHR’s and follow these recommendations can qualify to receive the incentive payments via additional reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid, based upon the physician’s payor mix. The plan states the following;
– Beginning Immediately, Providers utilizing PQRI and Electronic Prescription programs can qualify to receive an additional $6,000 – $8,000/year
– Early Adaptors can receive the most benefits, since approximately 70% of reimbursements are available during the initial two (2) years
– Beginning 2011, EHR Utilizers can receive up to $44,000 through Medicare and $64,000 through Medicaid over five (5) years

And for those physicians that do not acquire an EHR System by 2015, they will be penalized by a decreased reimbursement of their Medicare Rates

Currently, it is estimated that only 20% or less of the Physician Practices have acquired and utilize EHR Systems. Based upon this factor, the anticipated high demand by physicians for EHR Systems during the next 6 to 12 months, and the significant back-log of implementation schedules my most EHR companies (some EHR companies report waiting lists of 4 – 6 months), some physicians will not qualify for the majority of reimbursement benefits.

To best evaluate the various EHR Systems in the market, consider the following;
– How easily is the system implemented?
– What is the wait time to have the system installed?
– What training is required to utilize the system?
– Are the forms standardized or can they be customized to the practice?
– How easily can I convert my current files to electronic files?
– What is the cost of installation?
– What is the monthly and/or annual costs associated?
– How are the EHR’s accessed?
– How is the system established if there is more than one office?
– Can we access EHR’s from remote locations, including hospitals?
– Can I send lab orders and obtain results via the system?
– Does the system assist us in Coding?
– Does the system assist in avoiding lost superbills?
– What is the service guarantee?

To avoid missing out on the opportunity to qualify and obtain a share of the Federal Funds, while also enhancing your practice, investigate your option for EHR Systems now and implement a system into your practice as soon as possible.