(Last Updated On: January 6, 2017)

Eligible professionals who want to make the most of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive payments mark your calendars. October 3, 2012 is the last day that an eligible professional can be begin the 90 day reporting period in 2012 and receive maximum incentive payments. Eligible professionals who do not initiate EHR until 2013 will still receive incentive payments but will have their incentive payments reduced.

Who Is an Eligible Provider?

This handy chart is courtesy of CMS and is a thumbnail for who is eligible to receive payments under the two programs.

Eligible professionals under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program include: Eligible professionals under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program include:
Doctor of medicine or osteopathy Physicians (primarily doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy)
Doctor of dental surgery or dental medicine Nurse practitioner
Doctor of podiatry Certified nurse-midwife
Doctor of optometry Dentist
Chiropractor Physician assistant who furnishes services in a Federally Qualified Health Center of Rural Health Clinic that is led by a physician assistant.

The Incentives are Valuable

Solo professionals can receive up to $44,000 over five years in the Medicare Program and $63,750 over 6 years if participating in the Medicaid program. Here is another chart from CMS that outlines the benefits of participation:

Medicare EHR Incentive Program Medicaid EHR Incentive Program
Run by CMS Run by Your State Medicaid Agency
Maximum incentive amount is $44,000 Maximum incentive amount is $63,750
Payments over 5 consecutive years Payments over 6 years, does not have to be consecutive
Payment adjustments will begin in 2015 for providers who are eligible but decide not to participate No Medicaid payment adjustments
Providers must demonstrate meaningful use every year to receive incentive payments. In the first year providers can receive an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, or upgrading EHR technology. Providers must demonstrate meaningful use in the remaining years to receive incentive payments.

Help for Solo and Small Group Practices

Recognizing that solo and small group practices may find implementation of EHR financially overwhelming the Office of The National Coordinator for Health IT, usually referred to as ONC has programs a program called Regional Extension Centers that will help “priority primary care providers.” These priority providers are solo and small group medical practices.

The help from the REC will include:

  • Project management and implementation
  • Practice and workflow redesign
  • Functional interoperability and health information exchange (HIE)
  • Unbiased guidance on vendor selection and group purchasing
  • Best practices for privacy and security
  • Local workforce support
  • All support to help implement meaningful use of EHR

Implementation Can Be Painless (Relatively

The benefits of EHR have been proven in the field with practice efficiency enhanced and patient outcomes improved. Numerous companies have developed EHR modules, many of which can be integrated into a practice management system. These systems are off the shelf and are less costly to implement than custom designed programs. Generally, updating these programs are simpler and less expensive than the price for updating a custom program. Additionally, off-the-shelf programs are easier to learn as they have been designed for user ease and not for esoteric practice requirements.

Programs make prescription ordering a snap, appointment setting easy, and some programs already allow for patients to access certain parts of an EHR over the Internet. Practices should make sure that whatever system is in their future includes a no cost upgrade to ICD-10 as starting in 2014 it will be implemented based on recently issued final rules from CMS.

Alan E is a freelance writer/editor with a background writing about healthcare issues.