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Electronic Medical Records: Ready or Not, Here They Come

Posted 8:44 PM by

In today’s healthcare world, both providers and patients have probably heard the term electronic medical records, or EMRs. What is an EMR? What does it mean for physicians and their patients? How will it affect the future of healthcare?

Essentially, an electronic medical record is a patient chart that is in an electronic format instead of paper. Patient information is entered into a computer or PDA and can be retrieved by these devices when needed. The advantages of EMRs include:

  • Decreasing the need for physical storage space
  • Decreasing staff time in retrieving files
  • Allowing information to be accessed and shared in a matter of seconds
  • Making records more legible than ones that were handwritten
  • Expediting the billing and inquiry process

All of these benefits should result in improved patient care decisions and the resulting patient experience.

To help shift the healthcare industry into the digital age, the government has provided incentives for providers that are using EMRs. By meeting certain “meaningful use” criteria, providers can earn incentive payments of up to $44,000 (Medicare) and $63,750 (Medicaid) per provider. Meaningful use will be measured in three stages over a five-year period. The purpose of meaningful use is to establish criteria that medical providers must meet in order to prove they are using the EMR as an effective tool in their practice. Stage 1 of meaningful use is a two-year stage and will be ending on Dec. 31, 2012.

The main goal of Stage 1 was for medical practices to demonstrate they were capable of performing certain tasks with their EMR. There are 15 core requirements, such as recording demographics, vitals, active medication lists, and patient clinical visitation summaries. In addition to these core requirements, there is an a la carte menu of 10 additional requirements of which five must be achieved. Examples include drug-formulary checks, structured lab results and sending patient-specific education.

Stage 2, which begins January 2014, will require practices to actually perform those tasks. Patient care coordination through data exchange is the focus in Stage 2. Providers are not only required to be capable of providing electronic records to patients, but must also provide online access to records and ensure that at least 5 percent of their patients review them.

Incentive money is rewarded to providers who successfully implement and use an EMR. However, there are also penalties involved for those who do not. For providers who either have not adopted certified EMR systems or cannot demonstrate “meaningful use” by the 2015 deadline, Medicare reimbursements will be reduced across the board by 1 percent. The reduction rate penalty increases in subsequent years to 2 percent in 2016, 3 percent in 2017 and so on, depending on future adjustments.

As the end of the first two years of Stage 1 draws near, it is important for providers to understand two things:

  • Electronic medical records are inevitable.
  • It is not too late to benefit from government incentive payments.

The implementation of EMRs in healthcare systems around the world should allow for the seamless flow of data across multiple platforms and between various physicians, healthcare facilities and patients. There is a demonstrated correlation between physician/ patient communication and improved patient care. Patient charts can be sent by referring physicians with a few clicks of a mouse; patients can have access to their own records; and the on-call physicians can have immediate access to a patient’s records.

Electronic medical records are coming whether or not providers and patients are ready. There will be some growing pains, but the benefit to both the providers and the patients should be worth it.

About the Author
Lisa Curry is a partner in Katz, Sapper & Miller’s Healthcare Resources Group. Lisa works closely with her healthcare clientele to devise and implement tax and accounting strategies to help them minimize tax liability and thoughtfully plan for the future. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Comments (1)
stellasweety wrote
Very usefull post.
Posted Jun 19 2017 11:10 AM
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