In 2009, the Medicare and Medicaid EHR (electronic health record) incentive program created an incentive structure that would reward physicians who adopted an EHR system, and penalize those who did not. Under this current program, physicians must meet “meaningful use requirements” and adopt an EHR system by July 2014 in order to avoid penalties in 2015.
However, House Rep. Diane Black (R, Tenn.) recently introduced a bill that would offer more hardship exemptions within this program for both sole-provider practices and physicians that are soon to retire. According to Fiegel’s APA article, Many physicians are indeed finding it a hardship to convert to an EHR system; EHR implementation can cost $233,000 for a five-provider practice, and thus, for smaller practices, the Medicare/Medicaid bonus may not offset the costs of an EHR system. Older physicians also have difficulty with EHR systems: while nearly 64% of physicians younger than 50 use EHRs, only 50% of physicians above 50 have adopted the technology. While it is difficult to forecast the likelihood of this legislation passing, it certainly would be of benefit for those small practices and elderly physicians that are struggling with the transition to EHRs.
The American Medical Association approves the House proposal, stating:
“While the Medicare/Medicaid meaningful use program has helped jump start the use of EHRs, we are still in the early stage of progress due to technological, regulatory, as well as other challenges…these challenges must be overcome in order to increase physician participation rates and maximize the benefits.”
Fiegel, Charles. “House Bill Would Stop EHR Penalties for More Medical Practices.” Amednews.com. American Medical News, 17 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.