BOSTON—The time for otolaryngologists to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) is now, practice management and information technology experts said at a session at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, held here Sept. 26-29.
Explore this issue:October 2010
“If you don’t yet have an EHR, now’s the time to start looking for one,” said William T. Rust, DPharm, MBA, MHA, CEO and director of the Oak Ridge, Tenn.-based electronic health records company AllMeds. “The world of paper is very inefficient. EHRs will help with those inefficiencies. Educate yourself, get your team together, define your timeline on what you want to do.”
Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed into law last year, set aside incentives of up to $44,000 for practices and hospitals that show “meaningful use” of EHRs. Speakers at the session sought to clarify the government’s “meaningful use” guidelines, which are detailed in a 556-page proposal published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in January.
To receive the maximum amount of money offered, physicians who see Medicare patients would need to start using EHRs in 2011 or 2012. After 2015, the government will reduce Medicare payments to physicians who don’t have an EHR system in place.
Rust explained that because the rules are more lax, penalties related to the use of EHRs for Medicaid patients will not kick in until 2016. Specifics of the payment program, however, are determined by each state and not by CMS.
Rust said that with publication of these guidelines, most EHR vendors are now applying for government certification. “If you already have an EHR, you need to get with your vendor and ask them what their plans are,” he said. “…While most of the time upgrades are part of maintenance, there is a lot of education here. There are a lot of things the government made EHR companies put in their systems to help you meet meaningful use.”
Kelly Ladd, COPM, CMPE, CEO of Northwest ENT and Allergy Center in Marietta, Ga., and president of the Association of Otolaryngology Administrators (AOA), offered guidance on how to select an EHR system, a process she admitted can be “very confusing.”
“Narrow your search,” she said. “When you look at the scope of how many businesses are peddling their products, who can be relied on? Use your AOA [and other] societies—the AAO-HNS [American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery], AMA [American Medical Association], many of you have state and local societies. Talk to your colleagues. Do this before you sit down and say, ‘I want to invite vendor A into my office.’”