Physicians to receive incentives for EHR use

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides financial incentives to physicians who adopt and use Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology. However, physicians who haven't adopted certified EHR systems by 2014 will have their Medicare reimbursements reduced by up to 3 percent beginning in 2015.

The act provides $20 billion in health information technology funding, divided between $2 billion in discretionary funds and $18 billion in investments and incentives through Medicare and Medicaid, to ensure widespread adoption and use of interoperable healthcare IT systems.

"In one stroke, Congress has all but removed the biggest stumbling block to EHR adoption - cost," said James R. Morrow, MD, a physician at North Fulton Family Medicine in Alpharetta, Ga., who was named "Physician IT Leader of the Year" by the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). "It's time for doctors to stop complaining about the cost of an EHR and take the ball and run with it toward the goal of better medicine with better records and information sharing across the healthcare team."

With the stimulus, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will pay physicians $44,000 to $64,000 over five years, beginning in 2011, for deploying and using a certified EHR. The stimulus package is expected to ignite significant job growth in the information technology sector and, according to a Congressional Budget Office review, drive up to 90 percent of U.S. physicians to EHRs in the next decade.

A recent Allscripts survey of 1,888 healthcare professionals revealed that 98 percent of physician practices would take advantage of the incentives or would be closely evaluating the opportunity.

"Enabling a majority of physicians to use electronic health records is the single most important thing we can do to improve the quality and lower the cost of healthcare in America," said Glen Tullman, Chief Executive Officer of Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions. "We applaud President Obama and our Congressional leaders for recognizing the importance of this life-saving technology to our nation's future."

Morrow's 11-physician practice received the Nicholas E. Davies Award for Excellence from HIMSS in 2004 for demonstrating that its Allscripts Electronic Health Record saved $1.25 million a year by eliminating transcription and other costs associated with paper medical records. Morrow said the "most important reason to adopt the technology is the quality of care you can deliver for your patients".

"For our healthcare system to be all it can be, physicians need to be able to provide quality care at a consistently high level, and that cannot occur without an electronic health record," said Don Caruso, MD, associate medical rirector of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic in New Bedford, N.H. "The same is true of providing more cost-effective care - you can't get there without technology."