The government’s push for physicians to get on board with electronic health records, EHRs, is outlined in the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA, of 2009 which has changed the landscape regarding electronic medical records.

Federal stimulus funds are available that promise as much as $44,000 per physician to implement EHRs before the end of 2012 – Not all that far away.

To get these funds, physicians have to prove meaningful use. Meaningful use is still in the process of being clearly defined by the Feds. Specific requirements are outlined in the proposed rule published in the January 13, 2010 Federal Register.

Stage 1, the initial period of EHR described in the proposed rule, defines use focused on capturing health information electronically. 25 criteria for physicians to meet Stage 1 of meaningful use includes such things as:

  • Maintaining an up-to-date problem list;
  • Generating and transmitting at least 75% of all permissible prescriptions electronically;
  • Maintaining an active medication list with at least 80% of all unique patients; and
  • Having a least on entry providing clinical summaries to at least 80% of all patients for each office visit.

You can see this will, indeed, change the way most physicians currently work and manage their patients’ health records.

The proposed CMS requirements set the minimum standard for acceptable EHR use, which at this time means being CCHIT certified. This certification is accomplished through the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, which rates EHR products on usability ensuring that vendors meet the major objectives of meaningful use.

Until the proposed legislation is finalized physicians will not have essential information to guide the decision process. In the meantime gather information to help you make an appropriate EHR decision. Selecting and EHR is a long and arduous road. Make sure you are armed with the tools to make the EHR decision that best fits your practice specific needs.

Certainly the ARRA’s financial incentives are designed to convince many physicians to implement EHRs and will be effective in doing so. But don’t leap into it without a clear understanding of the government’s final requirements once legislation is passed.

Contact Judy Capko, one of America’s leading practice management and marketing consultns. e-mail judy@capko.com – I’m on your team!

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