Doctors that haven’t gone digital to start losing federal payments

December 19th, 2014 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Document Management

Doctors who haven't digitized their medical records are facing payment cuts starting this week due to a push for widespread adoption of electronic medical records.

More than 257,000 eligible providers will be forced to deal with payment cuts of 1 percent next year because they have yet to meet the federal threshold for electronic medical record adoption, The Wall Street Journal explained. That's around 200 hospitals that will lose Medicare payments because they missed the deadline for adopting digital records. And that's just the beginning. Another 28,000 providers will see their Medicare payments slashed 1 percent because they do not prescribe medications to patients electronically. If you're a medical provider that hasn't gone paperless, all of this begs the question: Why?

The government is cutting payments for providers that don't meet its definition of meaningful use of electronic medical records. Those that do qualify do so through the use of digital records to improve quality of care and safety of patients, interact with patients and family, enhance care coordination and maintain privacy for individuals' information. The rules were designed as a part of the 2009 stimulus package in order to push hospitals to adopt electronic records

"The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is working with physicians and other health care providers to improve health care quality through the use of electronic health records," a spokeswoman with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told Forbes in a statement. "Since 2011, more than 400,000 eligible professionals have received incentives under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. Beginning today, however, CMS will be notifying the minority of eligible professionals who have not successfully participated in the program that they will be subject to payment adjustments in 2015 as required by law."

Since 2011 approximately 400,000 providers have received some sort of bonus after meeting the meaningful use standards, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, as time goes the rule specifies that the awards be replaced with penalties for those doctors that don't adopt meaningful use of electronic medical records. Now over 200,000 providers are subject to that very same penalization.

Why is meaningful use so important?
The push for meaningful use was adopted because of the benefits that electronic medical records provide physicians and patients alike. The real-time and simple transference of information through digital means has vastly improved health care thus far, and the government is pushing to spread those advantages to all patients and providers. Thus far there have been three established tiers of meaningful use which hospitals can strive for.

The first stage is for data capture and sharing, the second was established to advance clinical processes while the third was designed to improve outcomes. Ultimately, the push to go paperless in hospitals will hopefully achieve a number of goals. Electronic medical records can help improve the detection and diagnosis of certain illnesses, reduce patient data mistakes and assist professionals with making faster, better informed decisions, according to Henry Schein Medical Systems. 

Those are just the benefits that patients will experience though, for providers the advantages continue. With electronic medical records physicians can quickly share information on patients, save space around the facility, cut operational costs and increase the number of patients treated per day with an improved workflow. While there are some physician groups that are unhappy about the payment cuts, they could significantly slash operational costs by adopting electronic health records, while improving quality of care. 

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