EMR Adoption, Penalties and Incentives

I have always been against physicians being rushed into EMR adoption. With thousands of dollars worth of investments in EMR systems, physicians simply cannot afford to make a hasty decision. However, with that said it is no longer 2009. The year 2015 is closing in fast, with July 3rd to October 1st 2014 being the latest attestation period. Physicians can avoid penalties upon the end of this period and are recommended to attest for their first year of meaningful use during the next year.

Physicians close to retirement of course do not see the point in adopting an EMR solution. A physician even admitted to their willingness to pay penalties for a couple of years. Penalties are set to increase by 1% on an incremental basis each year, following an unsuccessful meaningful use attestation. Providers seeking to practice actively beyond 2015, should consider attestation or at least be planning to adopt to avoid payment cuts.

“Revenue is tight and processes are difficult to manage. We can utilize every cent.” exclaimed a practice manager, adding “penalties obviously do not sound good when compared with incentive money.”

Incentive money can be a welcome boost for many small or single provider practices. Physicians admit that the monetary incentives could help them further improve the patient experience. Even so, most physicians were unwilling to compromise on individual methodologies which they believe will be affected by using an EMR. Furthermore, some providers are simply overwhelmed with the selection process, given the number of vendors in the market.

“I was just searching for an EMR and found that there are 700 plus vendors in the market with half of them having the ONC certification.” one physician exclaimed in an independent survey.

Meanwhile, the government is continually expanding the network of Regional Extension Centers to help practices in the selection of EMR systems. With the introduction of web-based solutions, cost has already become a less significant problem. In a recent report published by Kalorama Information, sales of EMR reached $17.9 billion in 2011, showing an increase of 14.2 percent from the previous year. According to this market research, the penalty payments will continue to drive up the sales of EHR solutions for the next two years.

The ending of the first meaningful use attestation period in March, 2012 saw an increasing number of attesting providers. Official figures revealed a staggering $4.4 billion as total incentives paid out. CMS is optimistic to say the least while EMR vendors continue to upgrade and offer innovative solutions to practices. With the surge in independent consultancy groups and VARs, the selection process is bound to simplify over time. Given the motivation of receiving financial incentives or the fear of facing penalties, the right time to start planning your EMR implementation is now.


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