Monday, November 2, 2009

What “Meaningful Use” of Electronic Health Records May Mean to Psychiatrists

With billions of dollars for electronic health record (EHR) technology purchases hanging in the balance, psychiatrists need to be paying attention to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deliberations on the definition of “meaningful use.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is supposed to set an interim definition in a few months. This is important to all office-based physicians because it will set the requirements they will have to meet for proving they are making meaningful use of EHR software and hardware they previously purchased. If they can make the case, starting in 2011, they would qualify for federal grants to partially compensate them for those previous software and hardware purchases.

Those grants are available for 5 years, and if obtained starting in 2011, they could amount to as much as $64,000 per practice for psychiatrists whose patient mix is at least 30% Medicaid recipients. That figure falls to $44,000 for physicians who cannot meet the Medicaid percentage and who see Medicare patients, with no specific percentage of the latter being designated.

There is also a penalty for physicians who do not meet the meaningful use definition. It comes into play after 2016; the Medicare fee schedule for professional services is reduced by 1% in 2015, by 2% in 2016, by 3% for 2017, and by between 3% to 5% in subsequent years.

The grants were authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—which is the stimulus bill Congress passed last winter. Sebelius will set interim requirements based on recommendations from 2 new advisory committees that were established by the ARRA: a health information technology policy and a standards committee. The meaningful use requirements will be different, in part, for office-based physicians and hospitals, but they will have escalating requirements in 2011, 2013, and 2015.


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