In one of my recent interviews with a healthcare IT consulting company, they revealed some breaking news for those of us in the EHR world. They told me point blank that:
Meaningful Use is Not Covering Costs
Ok, so that’s not really breaking news. Although, it seems that very few people want to actually articulate this point. It almost feels like heresy that someone would “complain” about the fact that the government is spending $36 billion on EHR incentives and that the money isn’t enough to cover the implementation of these EHR systems.
Actually, I should clarify that last point. The EHR incentive money is covering the costs to purchase the systems. It’s not covering the costs of implementing those EHR systems and then poking, prodding and otherwise cajoling end users to show meaningful use of that system (not to be confused with meaningfully using the system).
Let me also be clear that I’m not complaining about the EHR incentive money. I’ve done enough of that previously. What I’m just trying to acknowledge is something that everyone who deals with the EHR budget already realizes, but no one seems to want to say it. Organizations are spending more money on EHR and meaningful use than they’re getting from the government.
I think this is important for a couple reasons. First, many organizations didn’t budget any EHR money beyond what the EHR incentive money. You can certainly argue this was a mistake on their part, but that’s going to leave a bunch of organizations in a lurch. We’re already seeing the fall out of this as news reports keep coming out about hospitals systems in financial trouble due to the costs of their EHR system. Plus, in each of these cases, it seems their costs continue to balloon out of control with no end in sight. It makes me wonder if the compressed meaningful use timeline is partially to blame for a rushed implementation and poor EHR implementation and cost planning.
Second, there is still a swash of providers and organizations that haven’t yet implemented their EHR. If you can’t support the cost of EHR with government money, how does that bode for those who won’t be getting any EHR incentive money? One could make the argument that they’ll actually be in a better position since they won’t have to worry about meaningful use and can just focus on getting value out of their EHR. Hopefully that’s the case, but many of the meaningful use functions are now hardcoded into the EHR systems. Even if an organization isn’t planning on attesting to meaningful use, that doesn’t mean they won’t be forced by their EHR software to do a bunch of things they wouldn’t have done otherwise.
What are you seeing from your perspective? Is the EHR incentive money covering the costs of an EHR implementation? What are the impacts if it doesn’t?