Myth: EHR Stimulus Bill Requires Doctors to Use EHR and Be Interoperable

Posted on April 22, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

There are a bunch of myths being perpetuated right now around ARRA and the HITECH act. I’ve been on a number of conference calls and read a number of people perpetuating these myths. Some might call it poor communication and others might call it downright unethical talk. I’ll leave any judgment to someone else, but I believe these myths could lead to major problems in HIT.

Here’s the first myth I’d like to debunk here and now:
Myth: The EHR Stimulus bill (often referred to as ARRA or the HITECH Act) REQUIRES doctors to use EHR and be interoperable.

Reality: The government has no ability to actually require the use on an EHR. ARRA and the HITECH act do require you to use a certified EHR and show “meaningful use” IF (that’s a big IF) you want to receive the potential $44k in stimulus money avoid the 1-5% medicare/medicaid penalties that will go in force a few years down the road.

That means that if you’re not interested in the government stimulus money then you’ll need an EHR. However, I have a feeling that a large number of people are going to sit back and take the penalties and forget about the stimulus money. In fact, don’t be surprised if many just stop taking medicare/medicaid in response. The point being that it’s a requirement to get money, but not a legal requirement that a doctor use an EHR. I have a feeling those not using an EHR will still have lots of company for the forseeable future.

The interoperability falls under the same story. However, you may not even have to have an interoperable EHR at all if interoperability isn’t part of the EHR certification and “meaningful use” requirements. That part we’ll just have to wait and see.

Moral of the Story: Select an EHR because it makes sense for you and your practice. Don’t focus on the stimulus money and you’ll be much happier in the end.