Electronic Health Record

The conversion of patient health information to electronic health record is inevitable and has many benefits although many health providers are already storing and processing health information in electronic format. In fact, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is encouraging the conversion of non-electronic health record into electronic health information by offering bonus payment incentives to eligible healthcare professionals and acute care professionals.

The final 2009 rule proposed by HHS also known as Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act originally allocated $27 billion for a period of 10 years in multi-year bonus payments as high as $44,000 through Medicare and $63,750 through Medicaid per participant to encourage eligible participants or meaningful users to effectively use information technology for managing health information in digital format.

The Medicaid and Medicare electronic health record incentive programs offers incentives to eligible professionals (EPs) and eligible hospitals as they adopt, implement, upgrade, or demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology as follows:

• Demonstrating meaningful use of certified EHRs takes time and resources. EPs and hospitals can receive financial support from the CMS Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. EPs can qualify for EHR incentive payments totaling as much as $44,000 through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, or as much as$63,750 through the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

• Through the EHR Incentive Programs, eligible hospitals, including critical access hospitals (CAHs), can qualify for EHR incentive payments totaling some $2 million or more.

Originally, there was a broad set of objectives to be met in order to qualify for the bonus payment which included 23 objectives for hospitals and 25 for physicians. But the original rule was quickly revised as HHS received many comments regarding HITECH’s impracticality. In the final regulation, the original elements were divided into two groups consisting of mandatory core objectives as a starting point for meaningful use of electronic health record, and selective list of options from which participants can select in the first 2 years.

HHS published the HITECH’s meaningful use objectives and hopes to improve the program rules in subsequent phases of the program by having Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continue to reach for public and professional feedback.

As mentioned, electronic health record processing and storage is already here whether we want it or not but the smartest health care providers can take advantage of this new program to fund their efforts for converting non-electronic information into digital format and continue processing patient information electronically. The main purpose of this government funded program is to improve patient health care through the effective use of information technology and as such the security of the health information systems becomes even more important as providers increasingly rely on their computers instead of piling up patient folders in their locked file cabinets.

Read more about electronic health record incentive program and security requirements.