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Effect of Stimulus Package on EHR Adoption

Posted on February 18, 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.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act’s (HITECH) major goal is to increase EHR adoption. The major questions are “Is it enough?” and “Will it work?” Let’s take a look at each of these questions.

Is it enough?
Background:
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) provides $18 million in incentives through Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Starting in 2011, physicians who show that they are “meaningfully” using health IT would be eligible for $40,000 to $65,000, and hospitals would be eligible for several million dollars. The incentives would be phased out over time, with penalties in place by 2016.
Answer:
$40,000 seems like a large chunk of money for EHR. Of course, we have to remember that it’s spread out over 5 years, but $40k isn’t insignificant. Sure, many EHR out there cost $200k plus to implement. However, not all of them are this expensive. In fact, I’d say that the EHR market has shifted from mostly high priced EHR to more moderately priced EHR with unique pricing structures.

The possible problem with the HITECH legislation is that we still don’t know how HHS will interpret what a certified EHR will be. If they say it’s a CCHIT certified EHR, then $40k might not be enough reimbursement. If they create a better standard for certification which will include specialty EHR and smaller but effective EHR software, then $40k is probably enough for many doctors to turn the corner and implement an EHR.

Will it work?
My simple answer is No.

Let me explain my reasoning. I think we all underestimate the biggest reason why most doctors don’t want to implement an EHR. Many doctors just don’t want to change. Sometimes this is related to fear (see colleagues failures). Sometimes it’s related to retirement pending. Most significant is they just don’t see how it benefits them (the doctor). Throwing a little cash at them isn’t going to change their desire not to change. They’ll just find another excuse. They’re preferred EHR isn’t “certified” might be a good one.

We also have to remember that this isn’t cash up front to pay for the EHR. It comes in the form of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements that you hope you’ll qualify for after having spent money, time and energy (the oft forgotten element in an EHR implementation) implementing an EHR. If this was cash up front I might have a different point of view. However, far too many doctors have been screwed over (excuse the descriptive language) by Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. Let’s not be surprised if many doctors don’t believe that they’ll ever see any of this extra Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. If you still think this is far fetched, just do some research on doctors’ experience getting this same type of reimbursement from the ePrescribing initiative.

Add in the increased “paperwork” otherwise known as reporting requirements to receive the reimbursement and hopefully you’ll have an idea of why I think this won’t work. Most doctors want to see patients. They don’t want to deal with extra paperwork which includes researching an EHR. This is government aid were talking about and that’s pretty much synonymous with red tape.

Conclusion
I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but I am trying to be realistic. I just don’t see this new stimulus package having the desired effect on EHR adoption. More importantly, I hope that doctors take their time in selecting an EHR properly and aren’t swayed by the dollar signs EHR vendors will certainly be waving for them. Another set of poorly selected and implemented EHR will set back EHR adoption for years to come.

Luckily, I’m optimistic that most doctors have seen enough failures around them that they’ll tread lightly and not rush into EHR implementation.

Video Discussion of Obama EHR Stimulus

Posted on 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.

Today the following videos came across my Twitter feed and I was interested in video being used to discuss health care IT and in particular the health care IT stimulus package. Props to HealthTechnica for stepping in front of the camera and trying to share some knowledge about health care IT with the world.

The videos are a little long for me. The audio was a little soft too, but not too bad. I would have also liked a short intro of who was at the table speaking. I of course don’t agree with everything they said in these videos and would have liked a little more depth on some subjects, but I do like to point to people doing creative things online with HIT.

The Obama HIT Stimulus Package Video by Health Technica Part 1

The Obama HIT Stimulus Package Video by Health Technica Part 2

Best thing I heard in these videos. “Technology isn’t meant to fix things.” I’ve said this a hundred times when I’ve said, applying an EHR to a poorly run clinic just exposes all the weaknesses of that clinic.

Meaningful EHR User

Posted on 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.

I predict that “meaningful EHR user” will become the most overused term in EHR and Healthcare IT adoption over the next year.  Since the term seems to be the cornerstone of receiving a part of the $20 billion EMR stimulus package, then I thought it might be a good idea to understand how HHS might define what a “meaningful EHR user” will need to do.

Luckily Patricia King, a health care attorney in Illinois, posted the criteria for being a meaningful EHR user on NetDoc as follows.

To be a “meaningful EHR user”, the physician must satisfy three criteria:

  • The physician must use “certified EHR technology” in a meaningful manner, including electronic prescribing. The law calls for creation of a health information technology (HIT) Policy Committee, and an HIT Standards Committee. The HIT Policy Committee will focus on development of a nationwide health information infrastructure, while the HIT Standards Committee will recommend standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) is to adopt an initial set of standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria before December 31, 2009.
  • The physician must demonstrate that the certified EHR technology is connected in a manner that provides for the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of health care, such as promoting care coordination.
  • The physician must submit information on clinical quality measures specified by HHS.

Sound confusing enough?  Well, it’s going to be confusing until HHS is able to define what a certified EHR will look like (let’s all hope that it’s not synonymous with CCHIT certification) along with defining how the EHR should be able to exchange information.

I’ll be very interested to watch how HHS plans to implement these things.  I wonder if the frenetic pace that President Obama is basically requireing will end up being good or bad for health care IT and EHR adoption.

One thing we know for sure is that we’re in for an interesting ride.

Economic Stimulus Bill Simplified

Posted on February 17, 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.

UPDATE: Many of you will find my presentation on the ARRA EMR Simulus money of interest.

Today, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” was signed by Obama. In this bill, $59 billion was allocated for health care with approximately $20 billion designated for EHR adoption. Of course, any doctor interested in EHR wants to know how they can get their piece of the $20 billion.

The bill was just published and can be read in it’s entirety online. I’d suggest part 2 of 5 for the health care portion of the Stimulus Bill. However, it’s not light reading so I’ll leave that to someone braver than I. It does seem like much of the bill remains intact from what was written about previously by Patricia King on NetDoc. Here’s my short layman’s summary (I’ll update this page as points are clarified):

The government is not just going to cut you a check. Instead the $17 billion will be incentives paid as increased Medicare and Medicaid payments. Incentives will start in 2011 and be paid over 5 year for a physician who can show “meaningful use” of an EHR system (we’ll be hearing about this meaningful EHR use a lot more in the future).

Physicians who do not show “meaningful use” will be penalized in the form of declining Medicare payments. Hospital physicians won’t be affected.

Those wanting the stimulus money will also have to be using a “certified EHR.” Both the terms “certified EHR” and “meaningful use” are still yet to be defined by the government.

The maximum a provider can receive is $41-$44k over the 5 years and paid in lump sum or payments as determined by HHS.

That’s the basics of the EMR stimulus package. I’ll follow up this post tomorrow with a look at what it takes to show “meaningful use” of an EHR and some thoughts on what effect this stimulus package will have on EHR adoption.

Editors Note: Please let me know if changes were made in the final bill so that I can update them on this page. Thanks.

Defining Implementation of an EHR

Posted on February 9, 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.

One of the key facets of any EHR investment by the government will look at ways to award money for usage of an EHR. The hard question they’ll try to answer is how do you define an EHR that’s implemented.

This discussion is not new. Every study you can find on EHR implementation has struggled with the idea of defining when an EHR is actually implemented. I think that most surveys I’ve seen usually allow the user to define whether they’re EHR is fully implemented or partially implemented. The problem with this is that each person is likely to define a fully implemented EHR in different ways.

If a researcher has a problem defining an implemented EHR can you imagine how much fun the government will have defining this same thing. Not to mention when you start to attach money to the definition it gets really hairy.

Let me propose a simple definition of a fully implemented EHR using 2 main factors.

1. Paper Charts are no longer created or passed around the office.
2. Patient data can be transferred amongst EHR using a standard such as CCR.

The first factor is easy to measure. Take a look at the paper charts and see how many were created during the past year. Also, look at how a practice handles a patient who already has a paper chart. As long as a practice is relying on a paper chart, they are not full EHR. I should clarify that paper charts can exist in the practice, but they just should only be used for sending out records for past patients.

The second factor is easy to measure, but I’m just a little afraid that the CCR standard is just not quite fully defined. I hope that having Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault will help to establish this standard in an effective way across the industry. Some sort of medium for sharing important information is needed. Even if it’s simply allergies and medications for now would be fine with me. It can always be expanded later.

Should be simple enough. The problem is that it’s probably too simple for government work.

Allscripts’ CEO’s Stunning Take On Obama’s EMR Plans

Posted on January 28, 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.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article on electronic medical records, they talk about Allscripts’ CEO’s take on the governments planned $20 billion investment in EMR.  Here’s a portion of the article:

Glen Tullman, chief executive of the health IT outfit Allscripts-Misys Healthcare and an advisor to the Obama campaign on health information technology issues, argues that that any legislation should first help doctors buy and install electronic medical records, then give them financial incentives to actually use them in a way that could reduce waste and improve care. “That one-two punch would dramatically change the adoption rate for physicians,” he said in an interview with the Health Blog.

I’ve talked about Obama EMR many times before on this blog and over the next 6 months I expect I’ll talk about it a lot more.  This could be the most significant change in health care IT that we’ve ever seen.

However, it should scare all of us that Obama’s health information technology advisor is the CEO of Allscripts-Misys Healthcare any EMR vendor.  I know Obama’s from Chicago, but could this be a more blatant conflict of interest?  Why not call in the tobacco companies to see if they think that smoking will help improve the condition of America.  I’m pretty sure I know there answer.  Why would an EMR company be any different?

Even more interesting is this quote from the same Wall Street Journal article on EMR:

He[Glen Tullman] points to the success of a similar incentive program, courtesy of Medicare, to get more doctors to use electronic prescriptions — Allscripts’ other big business besides electronic health records. 

I just wanted to thank Glen Tullman for pointing out that not only does he have a huge conflict of interest in regards to EMR adoption, but he’s also had success influencing other Medicare legislation for which he would be even more biased (Allscripts being the most widely used e-prescribing software).  This sure doesn’t sound like the CHANGE that Obama’s been talking about.  Sounds like business as usual to me.

I can understand why Obama would want to talk to some of the main EMR vendors out there.  It would be interesting and insightful to hear their biased point of view.  However, I’m talking about a discussion with these EMR vendors.  I’m not talking about having them as an advisor to Obama.  Are there really no unbiased consultants that can inform Obama on the challenges of EMR implementation?  There has to be something better.

I just think that Obama and the US governemnt don’t have anyone telling him the true realities associated with EMR implementations.  Nothing proves this more than the idea that the government will probably use CCHIT certified EMR as a criteria for who will get some of the $20 billion allocated to healthcare in the economic stimulus package.

The crazy part is I feel like I shouldn’t blame Obama for these decisions.  I hope and think that he’s trying to make the best decisions he possibly can with the limited information he’s receiving on the subject.  Does anyone have Obama’s blackberry number?  I’d like to send him a short message with my thoughts on his proposed investment in EMR.

Thinking along those lines, I think I might send a tweet to John Culberson, Congressman from Texas.  Talk about someone who’s really trying to listen to the people and have an open dialog about subjects.  I’ll let you know how that goes and if he even cares about electronic medical records.

Detail’s of Obama’s EMR Stimulus Package

Posted on January 24, 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.

UPDATE: Check out more specific details on Obama’s EMR stimulus package.

UPDATE 2: Many of you will find my presentation on the ARRA EMR Simulus money of interest.

Details about Obama’s health care stimulus package are out. I prefer to call it Obama funds EMRs for medical practices. Here’s a summary of some proposed changes via HISTalk and John Glaser, VP and CIO at Partners HealthCare System (and thanks to Chris Paton for linking me there).

  • Provision of $40,000 in incentives (beginning in 2011) for physicians to use an EHR
  • Creation of HIT Extension Programs that would facilitate regional adoption efforts
  • Provision of funds to states to coordinate and promote interoperable EHRs
  • Development of education programs to train clinicians in EHR use and increase the number of healthcare IT professionals
  • Creation of HIT grant and loan programs
  • Acceleration of the construction of the National Health Information Network (NHIN)

He also adds. “All of these changes (and more) are accompanied by the infusion of $20B into the healthcare sector. To put this in perspective, in 2007 the HIT industry in the US was $26B (Gartner).”

It’s also important to note like John did that this is still just proposed legislation. In the next 30 days it will be turned upside down. However, what we can guarantee is that the government is going to make a huge investment in health care IT and in particular EMR and EHR software. Man, big EHR and EMR vendors must be licking their chops right now.

The funny thing is that I mentioned this investment in EMR to my wife’s OB/Gyn and she started to laugh. She said, “Like the government’s ever done anything to help the provider.” While I think the response was a bit jaded, you could tell that she sincerely felt like the government wasn’t going to help her get an EMR and honestly I don’t see her ever changing to one.

However, the perspective that the health care IT industry was $26B in 2007 and they’re looking at investing $20B really jumps out at me. It goes back to my thought that there aren’t enough health care IT, EMR, and EHR professionals out there right now. Can the health care IT market really support an infusion of $20B right now? I have my doubts. Of course, I don’t think that’s going to stop anyone in Washington. Plus, I find the possibilities for someone like myself who has experience incredibly exciting.

I’ll save my details response to these points for posts of their own, but it’s going to be a really interesting next couple months as we watch Obama’s investment in health care come to fruition. Of course, this assumes that the money doesn’t just get stuck in the political process and never actually makes it to the doctors who need the money to implement an EMR and EHR.