EHR Q&A: Is EMR or EHR a Requirement

Posted on April 14, 2011 I Written By

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Brenda asked:
As a private OT clinic that does not contract with medicare/ medicaid, are we required to use electronic medical records? We do submit claims to private insurance companies electronically.

The short answer is no.

In fact, NO ONE is REQUIRED to use EMR whether they take Medicare or Medicaid. However, if you take Medicare or Medicaid, then you have to be a “meaningful use” of a “certified EHR” in order to: 1. Get the EHR Incentive money and 2. Avoid the government penalties for not being a meaningful user of an EHR.

Some might argue that the work to show meaningful use is not worth the effort compared to the incentive money you receive. Plus, the penalties for not using an EHR are not that big of an issue (see this post on the EMR penalties ) Although, there are plenty of people arguing on the other side. For example, Meaningful Use is relatively easy (at least in Stage 1) and the penalties are going to be a major issue for their clinic since they have such a large Medicare or Medicaid population.

Then, there are the doctors that are leaving Medicare and Medicaid behind completely (see this doctor as an example). The argument here is that Medicare and Medicaid are the lowest paying payers out there and now they’re going to penalize them even more so they might as well just stop taking them. We’ll see how many adopt this strategy.

One word of Caution…
There’s a possibility that insurance companies will hop on board the requirement of an EHR and Meaningful Use (see this post about private insurance and meaningful use ). I’m sure they’re keeping a keen eye on how well it goes for the government before making any decisions. My gut feeling is still that they won’t wholesale take the governments approach to EHR and meaningful use. Instead, they may require some sort of electronic documentation or reporting requirements which are more easily performed with an EMR. Essentially it will be an extension of their requirement to have claims submitted electronically.

Despite the myth that EMR is a requirement, so far no one can require you to use an EMR. They can only provide incentives and penalties if you don’t (which only the government has done to this point). Although, there’s always the aspirational goal that Bush and Obama have made of Full EHR by 2014.

The longer answer is…EMR is not a Requirement….yet?

Be sure to check out all the EMR Stimulus Questions and Answers posts.