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July/August 2011
Clinical Practice Management
Physicians Must Start EHR Reporting Soon to Earn 2011 Incentive Payments

A key date is approaching for eligible providers wanting to earn a Medicare incentive payment for adopting certified electronic health records (EHRs) and demonstrating “meaningful use.” Providers must begin their 90-day reporting period by Oct. 3 to be eligible for the incentive payment for the 2011 calendar year.

Through Medicare’s EHR Incentive Program, eligible physicians can earn $18,000 for adopting EHRs and demonstrating meaningful use during 2011, and as much as $44,000 in total incentives if they successfully participate in the program over the next five years. To earn the incentive payment for this year, however, physicians must demonstrate meaningful use—by reporting 15 core objectives, five menu objectives, and six clinical quality measures—for a continuous 90-day period starting no later than Oct. 3.

While physicians who wait until 2012 to adopt a certified EHR system can still maximize their incentive payments, the payment amounts will decline slightly each year thereafter. Eligible physicians who do not adopt EHRs will face Medicare payment penalties starting in 2015. A schedule of incentive payments and penalties is available on IDSA’s website. (You must be logged in to access this link.)

Key reminders about the EHR incentive program:

  • Figuring out whether you are eligible for incentive payments is easy. Complete the online registration, which takes only a few minutes, to determine your eligibility. You must complete this process yearly.
  • Physicians who provide 90 percent or more of their services in a hospital inpatient (Place of Service code 21) or emergency room (Place of Service code 23) setting will be defined as hospital-based professionals and, thus, ineligible for incentive payments.
  • Eligibility for incentive payments one year does not necessarily mean that you will be eligible the next year (or vice-versa). This is because Medicare recalculates your percentage of hospital-based services each year to determine eligibility. 

Note: IDSA has asked Medicare to clarify whether physicians who are determined to be hospital-based in any year will be subject to payment penalties beginning in 2015 for failing to become a “meaningful user.” This question will be critical for ID physicians whose proportion of inpatient to outpatient services could make them eligible for the incentive one year but not the next.

Once registered, providers can start reporting the results of their EHR meaningful use objectives and attest that they have met the requirements to receive incentive payments, a process called attestation. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has helpful resources on its website, including a user guide and a video.

Other resources include the EHR Information Center, available at 888-734-6433, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. CMS also has a listserve to provide updates on registration, reporting and attestation, and the payment process. Click here to join.

IDSA’s Practice Management Listserve is another resource for Society members to discuss clinical practice-related issues, including incentive programs. To subscribe, visit IDSA’s website.

For physicians still considering an EHR system, it is important to take the time to select the appropriate one and plan ahead for future changes, such as selling your practice to a hospital, which may affect how much you wish to invest in an EHR system. To help IDSA members compare EHRs and learn about meaningful use requirements, IDSA has partnered with the American College of Physicians and other medical specialty societies on a free interactive website, AmericanEHR Partners.
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