Obama Eases EMR Stimulus Incentive Money for Electronic Medical Records Adoption

The Obama administration provided further impetus to the initiative of upgrading physical medical records into the electronic format by easing conditions set forth for healthcare institutions and physicians hoping to qualify for federal funding provided as a part of this healthcare transformation.

It should be noted that a legislation was passed last year wherein the Department of Health and Human Services had set aside nearly $27 billion to ease the financial burden of healthcare providers/facilities ready to convert their patient records in the electronic format. This financing was suggested considering the fact that a majority of the healthcare settings in the United States depend upon paper records. Statistics suggest that only 20% of physicians and just 10% of the hospitals use electronic medical records in a basic manner. The greater reliance on paper-based systems meant the need to provide a financial incentive/assistance to commence this technological upgrade.

The federal funding entitles healthcare providers a financial assistance of up to $63,750 through Medicaid and $44,000 through Medicare, i.e. the amount extended to cover costs encountered as a part of updating physical records into the electronic format. Healthcare providers treating Medicare patients that don’t comply by these regulations by 2015 will suffer restricted financing. However, most healthcare providers were of the opinion that the regulations that were put forth to qualify for the federal funding were a bit rigid. However, the new rules suggested by the Obama administration indicate that fewer requirements will be put forth, easing the entire process.

Most healthcare providers state that costs incurred as a part of updating themselves to the electronic format of patient information is much more than the stipulated assistance, particularly for smaller healthcare settings. However, the new changes are bound to ease their burden. For instance, the interpretation of “meaningful use’ of electronic records is now more flexible. Similarly, healthcare providers need to provide just 40% of their prescriptions in the electronic format to qualify for the funding instead of the previous requirement of 75%.

The new changes mean that healthcare providers seeking financial assistance must provide patients an electronic copy of their health records at the time of testing for drug allergies of checking for drug interactions. Healthcare providers need to indicate any changes in vital signs of the patient and if the patient uses tobacco. These changes are largely attributed to the efforts of Donald Berwick who is now a central figure in the functioning of Medicare and Medicaid programs. A Boston-based pediatrician, Dr. Berwick, has been a supporter of electronic medical records, quoting it to be a safer and more reliable alternative than paper-based health records.