why the rush to implement electronic health records

Money

On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which includes detailed provisions concerning health care technology. The health care information technology provisions of the ARRA are referred to as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and its provisions became effective in February 2010. With this law, billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments became available to providers who demonstrate that they are “meaningful users” of electronic health records. Meaningful use by ARRA is defined as having three main components:

1. Use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing;

2. Use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care; and

3. Use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.

Examples of “meaningful use” include use of computerized provider order entry (CPOE) for medications; use of e-prescriptions; up to date problem lists; and documentation of patient information such as smoking, vital statistics and demographics.

As if huge financial incentives were not enough to promote the transition from paper to computerized records the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have also enacted penalties. Specifically, those who do not make the transition to computerized records could have their reimbursement rates cut by as much as 5%.

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