Electronic health records: Clearing up confusion about federal implementation deadline

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IT with a human touch
IT with a human touch
There is no federal mandate for nursing homes, home health programs or residential living facilities to implement electronic health records (EHR). Hence, the upcoming federal deadline for EHR implementation does not apply to providers of long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC).

Recently, there has been some confusion among CAST and LeadingAge members about federal requirements for EHR implementation. This confusion has led to concerns about the January 2015 deadline for EHR adoption facing health professionals and acute-care hospitals that are eligible for the EHR Incentive Programs administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

EHR incentive programs 

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs were authorized by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. The programs provide incentive payments to eligible participants that demonstrate they are making “meaningful use” of EHRs. 

The incentive programs began in 2011. Eligible participants that do not successfully demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs will be subject to financial penalties beginning in January 2015.

LTPAC providers are not eligible to participate in the incentive programs. Therefore, these providers are not required to implement EHRs, and will not be subject to penalties in 2015. (Of course, CAST recommends adoption of EHRs and we have several resources to help you make that decision.)

Who is eligible?

Under Medicare, institutional providers eligible for the EHR incentive payments include health professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) that demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. 

Under Medicaid, institutional providers eligible for the EHR incentive payments are acute-care hospitals (which include CAHs and cancer hospitals) and children's hospitals.

Outpatient clinics

It should be noted that physicians and physician assistants who are eligible for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program may choose to assign their incentive payments to their employer or the entity with which they have a contractual arrangement. Such entities could include outpatient clinics operated by LTPAC providers. These eligible professionals will face penalties if they do not deploy a certified EHR and meet the meaningful use criteria by January 2015.

A word about Minnesota

As far as we know, Minnesota is the only state that passed legislation mandating that all providers, including LTPAC providers, to have an EHR by January 2015.

More EHR information

For more information about EHRs and the CMS EHR Incentive Programs, please visit CAST Frequently Asked Questions.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post originally appeared in the CAST section of the LeadingAge website.

 

Majd Alwan is Senior Vice President of Technology and Executive Director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST).

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