As part of the Stimulus Act, the federal government will spend $27 billion expanding electronic health records (EHR’s) over the next ten years, and this spending will impact the local economy. January 3, 2011 marks the beginning of a big effort to get hospitals and doctors to start using EHR’s for Medicare patients. And there is money to be made in doing so. The sooner they adopt EHR’s, the more money providers get. Individual doctors are eligible for as much $44,000 over the next five years, and $2 million to eligible hospitals.
The new incentives also mean money for local companies like IT Solutions in Fort Washington, which sets up EHR’s in doctors’ offices. “We’ve seen a huge uptick especially in the last 6 months among practices looking to install these systems,” said CEO Ted Swanson. “I think for a while a lot of doctors really didn’t believe that this money was going to go come through. In the first six months of 2011, it will definitely start to spread and doctors will see this is not just a good way to run their business but also a good financial decision.” Swanson anticipates a mini-boom in the industry over the next two years. He says that only ten percent of doctors’ offices currently have EHR’s installed. But the providers will have to do more than just install the new system. David Nolley with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says as much. “But turning paper records into digital ones is not enough,” Nolley explained in a 40-minute video describing the incentives. “Meaningful use of EHR technology has the potential to prevent medical errors, cut unnecessary health care costs, decrease paperwork and improve the quality of health care for all Americans.” The catch, as Nolley says, is “meaningful use.” To be eligible for the payments, providers must prove that they’re using EHR’s on activities like fulfilling prescriptions online, sending appointment reminders to patients and entering lab-test results.