The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act helps physicians to cope with the EMR transition by providing financial assistance.
Nitin Chhoda elaborates on the importance of the HITECH to practices that are just starting to use electronic medical records.
Implementing electronic medical records system is an expensive undertaking, but assistance is available to defray the cost as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
Federal funds were allocated in the act to help ease the cost of transitioning to an EMR and to facilitate an increase in their usage.
The portion of the act that deals with financial assistance is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).
Depending upon the vendor, an EMR can easily cost $45,000 or more, an amount that takes a big bite from the budgets of smaller practices. Through HITECH, physical therapists can apply for financial aid as “meaningful users” of EMR systems.
The act makes provision for $18 billion through Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement systems, $2 billion for necessary infrastructure, and $1 billion for acquiring IT professionals, along with repair and renovation of health centers.
HITECH also sets aside $550 million as an incentive to purchase equipment and services, and $400 million for research on the impact of EMRs. In addition, $300 million has been earmarked towards health information exchange among providers and $40 million to facilitate the submission of disability claims to the Social Security Administration.
Implementing an EMR requires training of authorized users and grants are available for training centers for IT staff needed to support necessary infrastructure. Practice owners that can exhibit meaningful use of EMR-certified technology are eligible for a variety of HITECH funding, but many clinicians still aren’t aware the money is available, or that incentives are only being offered until 2015.
Many incentives hinge on the HITECH’s “meaningful use” clause and it’s a term that’s been confusing to many clinic owners. Meaningful use is a three-pronged approach to the incentive program established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
Stage one encompasses 25 criteria and consists of 15 core requirements. Of the remaining 10, therapists have the option of choosing five to comply with requirements.
In stage one of HITECH Act, therapists must adopt an EMR by Dec. 2014 that meets government requirements to qualify for federal funding. To qualify for the maximum amount of HITECH incentive money, clinicians have to attain meaningful use standards at least 90 days before the end of Sept. 30, 2012.
It includes increased demands for electronic transactions, the exchange of health information electronically, and online access for patients to their health data.
Stage three activates in 2016.
Therapists must continue to meet the requirements in previous stages and demonstrate that the quality of client care has improved.
With all that clinicians must keep in mind when implementing a qualified EMR, it’s easy to fixate on the cost and lose sight of the federal incentives available.
Therapists must implement an EMR, but they don’t have to shoulder the burden of expense by themselves.
Federal funding is available through the HITECH Act to assist practice owners purchase, equip and implement an EMR, install the needed infrastructure and obtain training for staff members. Deadlines are attached to federal dollars, making it essential that clinic owners begin evaluating their options as soon as possible.