Electronic Health Record Czar Sees Hurdles for Incentive Plan

From Medscape:

President Barack Obama’s point person for digitizing healthcare says the plan to incentivize physicians to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) could falter if eligibility requirements are too ambitious in the April 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). EHR experts couldn’t agree with him more. Keep it simple, they told Medscape Medical News.

Appointed last month as the national coordinator for health information technology in the Department of Health and Human Services, internist David Blumenthal, MD, will play a key role in implementing a portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dubbed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

Under HITECH, physicians who demonstrate “meaningful use” of an EHR system can receive $44,000 over 5 years through Medicare or almost $65,000 over 6 years through Medicaid. The first year to qualify for these payments is 2011. Medicare reimbursements progressively shrink for physicians still using paper charts by 2015. The law creates bonuses and penalties for hospitals, too, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News. The law’s goal is not just putting a computer in every exam room, but instead improving the healthcare of every patient who walks into the exam room, and cutting costs in the process — hence the emphasis on meaningful use.