It may be hard to believe, but the first year of the federal Meaningful Use program to encourage the adoption of electronic health records is winding down. Healthcare practitioners who hadn't started compliance by Oct. 3 and hospitals that waited until after July 1 have already missed out on the first year of payments.
Fear not, though. Providers can start as late as 2014 for Medicare and 2016 for Medicaid and still earn a share of an estimated $27 billion in incentive payments--though maximum incentives could be lower after 2013. Anyone who doesn't achieve Meaningful Use by 2015 risks Medicare penalties.
A closer look at the best practices some healthcare providers have followed to comply with Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements can help your facility plan an effective strategy.
Start Early, Get Paid Fast
Texas Health Resources, a 24-hospital system in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had 11 of its hospitals implement Epic's EHR system early enough to attest to Meaningful Use on April 18. That was the first day hospitals were allowed to attest by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for establishing and administering Meaningful Use requirements. The health system received about $19 million from Medicare a month later. Medicaid bonuses have provided another $7 million, says chief medical information officer Ferdinand Velasco, MD.
Texas Health has been committed to EHRs since its first hospital went live on Epic Care in 2005, but the road to Meaningful Use hasn't been easy. It took several months from the time the 11 hospitals switched to the Meaningful Use-certified version of Epic Care in December until they met the Stage 1 standards.
Another hospital is going live with the EHR in December, and Velasco doesn't expect it to attest until the middle of next year.
"You want to start as early as possible," he advises. "Obviously, the clock is ticking, but it's going to take time."
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