The stimulus package and buying EHRs

The recent federal economic stimulus package set aside more than $17 billion for doctors and hospitals to adopt EHRs. ACP has developed extended guides to answer physician's questions about the incentives.

Although the government has yet to define the exact criteria for a new program offering financial incentives to physicians for using electronic health records (EHRs), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the economic stimulus package) set aside $19.2 billion for health information technology. In addition, a large chunk of that, about $17.2 billion, will be given to doctors and hospitals who adopt EHRs and integrate those systems into their practices.

However, there are still many unknowns about how the incentives will play out. For now it is clear that, based on provisions in the “economic stimulus” package, physicians:

  • have the option to participate in several bonus payment programs. However, physicians can only receive payments for one program. ACP advises its members to take the time to compare and contrast programs before choosing which one to participate in to maximize benefits.
  • need to demonstrate meaningful use of a certified system to receive bonus payments. As of now, these requirements have not been clearly defined. We advise that practices looking to purchase an EHR system make sure that the vendor guarantees, in writing, that their product will meet the certified system requirements and include functionality to allow doctors to demonstrate meaningful use with the system once these terms have been defined.
  • be eligible to earn up to $44,000 over five years, if a practice documents meaningful use of a certified EHR system at the start of 2011. In addition, if a physician is not a meaningful EHR user, the amount the physician would otherwise receive under the Medicare fee schedule will be reduced starting in 2015.

ACP has developed an extended set of questions and answers to guide physicians through the new incentives. The answers to many of these questions can help physicians determine what steps they may need to take to be eligible for health information technology incentives in the upcoming years. If you are thinking of adopting an EHR system visit the EHR Roadmap. For help narrowing down the choices, visit the EHR Partners Web page.