Everyone in healthcare knows about the EHR Incentive Programs and the stimulus money that doctors can receive if they successfully attest to Meaningful Use of electronic health record technology. However, participating in the program can be a daunting feat for first-timers. For EHR newcomers looking to achieve Meaningful Use and qualify for federal incentive payments, we offer the following tips:
1. Decide which program you want to participate in. There are two incentive programs, Medicare and Medicaid, but physicians can only choose to participate in one (even if they see patients from both). To help you determine which one to go with, find out the differences between each program and decide which one will benefit your practice most. It might be that you claim more money for one program versus the other or that you only qualify for one.
2. Register. In order to attest to Meaningful Use, you will need to register with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Complete this step ahead of time to make sure that you can get started as soon as your practice is ready.
3. Mark important dates on your calendar. One of the main dates to remember for this year is October 3, 2013. This is the last day eligible providers can begin the 90-day reporting period to qualify for incentive payments for the calendar year 2013. Additional information about reporting periods and deadlines for the Medicare Incentive Program can be found on CMS’ website. For the Medicaid Incentive Program, on the other hand, you will need to check with your local Medicaid agency, as dates can vary from state to state.
4. Familiarize yourself with Meaningful Use. Go over each of the requirements and figure out whether your practice qualifies for any exemptions. Next, make a list of all mandatory objectives in order of difficulty, and start figuring out how your practice is going to demonstrate compliance.
5. Choose the right EHR vendor. Many EHR systems on the market are ONC-certified. However, having a certified product doesn’t necessarily guarantee Meaningful Use. When selecting a vendor, make sure that they are committed to helping you reach your objective by providing free Meaningful Use training and support.
6. Plan ahead. Physicians who have already attested to Stage 1 will be able to attest to the next phase of Meaningful Use starting in 2014 – and that’s only a few months away. Stage 2 introduces new measures, such as using secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients and providing timely online access to their health records. Physicians will likely want to implement a patient portal in order to meet these and other patient engagement objectives.