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Dynamic Chiropractic – September 9, 2012, Vol. 30, Issue 19

dynamicchiropractic.com >> Geriatrics & Senior Health

Federal Incentive Payments for Implementing EHR: Myth vs. Fact

By Steven Kraus, DC, DIBCN, CCSP, FASA, FICC and Robert Moberg

Beginning in 2011, doctors of chiropractic were among the hundreds of thousands of American health care practitioners to received checks of up to $18,000 from the federal government for implementing electronic health records (EHR) in their clinics.

These early adopters are eligible for up to $44,000 each. Approximately $2.8 billion has been paid so far to Medicare providers and hospitals that have met the standards for "meaningful use," with $16.5 million of that being paid to DCs.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation in the chiropractic profession, and elsewhere, about the EHR incentive payments and EHR in general. We want everyone to have the facts, so they can make informed decisions; therefore, we have put together the following list of myths vs. facts regarding electronic health records.

MYTH: Chiropractors are not eligible for the "up to $44,000" incentive for implementing certified EHR software. FACT: The government uses the definition of physician from the Social Security code, which includes chiropractic physicians. Thus, doctors of chiropractic are eligible to receive reimbursement for implementing EHR as long as they meet the other established guidelines. In fact, hundreds of DCs have already gone through the processes of implementation and attestation, and have received their 2011 payments. Some have even received their 2012 payments! We estimate that well over 2,000 DCs have successfully attested and received stimulus funds. You can still be eligible receive the full $44,000 incentive by implementing EHR in your practice no later than Oct. 3, 2012 and performing meaningful use for just 90 days in your first year.

First convened in September 2007, the Chiropractic Summit represents leadership from some 40 organizations within the profession. The Summit meets regularly to collaborate, seek solutions, and support collective action to address challenges with the common goal of advancing chiropractic. A major focus of the summit has been to improve practitioner participation, documentation, and compliance within the Medicare system. This article is the 12th in a series developed by the Chiropractic Summit Documentation Committee.
MYTH: I have to attest for the full year if I didn't start meaningful use before 2012. FACT: The EHR reporting period for the first year of meaningful use – regardless of the year – is any continuous 90-day period within that calendar year. In subsequent years, after a provider's first year, the reporting period is the entire calendar year.

MYTH: If I am a non-participating physician and do not accept assignment, I am not eligible for an incentive payment. FACT: If you submit claims for Part B covered services, you are eligible. If you successfully register and demonstrate meaningful use of a certified EHR, your incentive payment will be based on all services allowed under Part B, regardless of your participation status or whether you have accepted assignment on those claims.

MYTH: Any electronic system will qualify me for reimbursement. FACT: Only the use of certified EHRs (those that meet specific federal standards for meaningful use) can qualify for incentive payments. It's important to note that there are two distinct classifications of certified software: modular and complete. EHRs with complete certification can help you qualify for up to $44,000 using just that software. EHR software with modular certification requires you to find complementary software to combine with the modularly certified software in order to be eligible.

MYTH: As long as my software is certified, I qualify for the stimulus funds. FACT: Having EHR technology that is certified is certainly an essential part of qualifying for the EHR incentive program; however, practicing meaningful use of that software is up to the provider. Visit https://ehrincentives.cms.gov to learn more about meaningful use requirements and how to register for the EHR incentive program.

Only software or a combination of software systems that meets 100 percent of the certification requirements can qualify you for the stimulus payment. Modular certification alone is not enough to qualify. To evaluate a vendor's certification status:

  • Visit http://onc-chpl.force.com/ehrcert.
  • Search for the vendor or product name.
  • Add the product(s) to your cart.
  • View your cart to see the percentage of certification criteria the selected software system(s) meets.

MYTH: If I choose not to implement EHR in my clinic, nothing will happen to me. FACT: Beginning in 2015, penalties will be assessed to doctors who have chosen not to transition to electronic health records. These penalties will be in the form of decreased Medicare reimbursement, starting at a 1 percent decrease the first year, followed by higher decreases in subsequent years.

MYTH: I will only get reimbursed for the amount I spend on my EHR software. FACT: You can actually be reimbursed for substantially more than what you spend for EHR. The incentive payment amounts have been set by the federal government and have nothing to do with how much you spend on your EHR.

The government wants to motivate doctors to implement an EHR as soon as possible and has created a strong financial incentive plan to move the process forward swiftly. The sooner doctors implement a certified EHR system, the more in incentive payments they can receive. Incentive payments can be as high as $44,000 – a substantially higher benefit than the average cost to implement a system. Here is how the maximum payments break out:

The government recognizes that there are hardware costs, training costs and possible revenue loss during the initial conversion to your new system. EHR incentive payments of up to $44,000 are intended to compensate providers for those additional costs.

MYTH: By participating in the incentive program, I am guaranteed to receive the full $44,000 reimbursement. FACT: $44,000 is the maximum incentive payout, over five years, if your first qualifying year is 2011 or 2012. Your actual payment amount will be 75 percent of your Medicare allowed services for each year, up to the maximum amount for that year (presuming, of course, you have satisfied the applicable meaningful use criteria).

MYTH: The clinic, not individual doctors, receive incentive payments for implementing EHR. FACT: The incentive payment program has been set up to benefit individual eligible providers specifically. This means that multiple DCs who practice in the same clinic can each qualify for incentive payments, as long as the individual doctors are using a qualified system meaningfully, according to the incentive payment requirements. Even though they may all use the same EHR, they can each receive up to $44,000 based on their individual allowed charges.

MYTH: Chiropractic physicians will have a difficult time meeting the criteria for "meaningful use" because they are excluded from many of the meaningful use criteria. FACT: DCs do have some obvious exclusions, such as e-prescribing and immunization reporting; however, most DCs will find that if their state scope of licensure allows for certain quality reporting of such items as smoking cessation, blood pressure recording or weight loss counseling, they can perform most of the meaningful use criteria without further exclusions.

Many of the meaningful use criteria are related to capturing patient demographic or diagnostic data one time during the reporting period, and this can be performed by staff for most of the criteria. Other criteria are related to testing your EHR to see if it can perform certain functions. Many DCs who have already received their incentive payment have commented that once they were trained on each of the measures, it was not difficult.

MYTH: Now that the government is encouraging all eligible providers to adopt EHR, the government will be able to dictate how we deliver care. FACT: Nowhere in any of the legislation does it indicate that the government will exert any influence on the way you deliver patient care. Rather, an agency called the Office of the National Coordinator of Healthcare Information Technology (ONCHIT) was established in 2004 to facilitate the implementation of EHRs across health care entities. ONCHIT is only given authority to organize the implementation process, and is not charged with overseeing actual delivery of care and how you treat patients.

Remember, there is still time to take advantage of the full $44,000 incentive. The government decided earlier this year that eligible providers – including DCs – could still qualify for the full $44,000 incentive if they implemented a certified EHR in 2012 and demonstrated 90 consecutive days of meaningful use this year. That means there is still time to take full advantage of this incentive for doing something many of us know we should be doing anyway.

Oct. 3, 2012 is the absolute last day you can begin meaningful use of a certified EHR to qualify for the maximum incentive. However, recognize that the maximum incentive amount for the first year drops by only $3,000 from 2012 to 2013. It is obviously best to move quickly and implement before Oct. 3, 2012, but moving before July 2013 is critical to maximizing the program due to changes in requirements.

The point is, there is still time, but time is of the essence, as it will take 30-60 days to get up and operating. There's no need to overreact ... just act!

Adoption Year Potential Medicare Incentive
Payout Over Time
No Adoption
2012 $18,000      
2013 $12,000 $15,000    
2014 $8,000 $12,000 $12,000  
2015 $4,000 $8,000 $8,000 1 percent penalty
2016 $2,000 $4,000 $4,000 2 percent penalty
2017       3 percent penalty

Total Incentive
Available Based on Year of Implementation

$44,000 $39,000 $24,000  

The standing members of the Summit Subcommittee on Documentation include Dr. Carl Cleveland III, Ms. Kim Driggers, Dr. Farrel Grossman, Dr. Steven Kraus, Dr. Peter Martin, Ms. Susan McClelland, Mr. Robert Moberg, Dr. Frank Nicchi, Mr. David O'Bryon, and Dr. Claire Welsh. Dr. Kraus and Mr. Moberg served as principal authors of this article, with a special thanks to Dr. Daniel Redwood and Ms. McClelland for their capable assistance in stylistic enhancement and editing.

Click here for previous articles by Steven Kraus, DC, DIBCN, CCSP, FASA, FICC.

Robert Moberg is a seasoned and tenured business professional with a solid combination of corporate and entrepreneurial business experience. As CEO, he has helped establish ChiroTouch (www.chirotouch.com) not only as a trailblazer in the software industry within the chiropractic community, but also as a stalwart leader in the profession. His commitment to chiropractic is not only evident in the innovations ChiroTouch brings practicing doctors, but also in the countless ways he has led the charge in giving back to the profession. From supporting state and national associations, to chiropractic colleges, to the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, Robert works tirelessly to help raise awareness of chiropractic and the benefits only the profession can provide.


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