Electronic health records yield benefits, penalties

March 1, 2011

The mandatory implementation of electronic health records looms in 2014 for health-care professionals and hospital providers.

Towson, MD-The mandatory implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) looms in 2014 for health-care professionals and hospital providers.

"We've all heard about EHRs and how we will have to implement them going forward," said Dr. Goel, in private practice with Lasik Plus Vision Center, Towson, MD, and immediate past-president of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.

"Ophthalmologists who bill Medicare at least $55,000 qualify for the maximum reimbursement of $44,000 per physician, payable over 5 years, for meaningful use EHR implementation before the end of 2012," Dr. Goel added. "The incentive decreases to $39,000 for 2013 and $24,000 for 2014."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide reimbursement incentive to eligible professionals and hospitals who become meaningful users of certified EHR technologies, according to Dr. Goel.

About $9 billion has been appropriated for this initiative, and incentive payments begin in 2011 and gradually will decrease after 2012. Starting in 2015, there will be financial penalties for failure to adopt EHR technology, he cautioned.

Dr. Goel explained the details of the incentive plan and how to maximize the incentive.

"Physicians should claim the e-prescribing benefit for 2011 and then the full EHR benefit for 2012," he said. "If you claim the EHR incentive in 2011, you will give up the added bonus of the e-prescribing incentive.

"If you do not adopt these technologies, you will have to start to pay some penalties," Dr. Goel said. "For example, if you are not e-prescribing by 2012, you will face a 1% reduction in Medicare Part B reimbursements. This will increase to 2% by the year 2014."

This year and 2012 are the only 2 years in which physicians are eligible for the maximum $44,000 reimbursement over 5 years for each physician in their practices if they implement and become a meaningful user of EHR.