ARRA HITECH Act: Headache or help for new practices?
The ARRA HITECH ACT can sound a little daunting to new medical practices trying to get up to speed. Doesn't it involve a bunch of technology hoops to jump through, including something called "Meaningful Use" of electronic health records?
Well, yes and no. Meaningful Use of EHR is definitely the centerpiece of the ARRA HITECH Act, but for now, it's voluntary. And while it calls for doctors to use a certified EHR and e-prescribing solution, much of the electronic data they will input is basic patient demographics. Meanwhile, e-prescribing is much faster than manually authorizing a script, as all the information needed to do so, from formulary coverage to patient medication history, is in one system.
Among the largest benefits of the ARRA HITECH Act for doctors in new practices are the veritable windfall of incentive money it pays out and the encouragement of information technology that can save patient lives.
ARRA HITECH Act incentive money
Doctors in new practices are often saddled with hefty student loans and higher medical malpractice insurance rates. Imagine what a boon an extra $21,000 could be this year! That's how much each eligible doctor in the practice could receive in Meaningful Use of EHR incentive money in 2011, and thousands more each year until 2015.
Another incentive program attractive to new practices is the MIPPA e-prescribing initiative. But doctors will have to prove they've used e-prescribing to generate ten unique prescriptions by June 30th, or they'll get hit with e-prescribing penalties instead.
To get the best bang for their buck, new practice physicians should give serious consideration to buying an e-prescribing solution that offers an eventual upgrade to a "modular" EHR solution. Taking this path, doctors can first buy an e-prescribing solution that pays for itself with MIPPA e-prescribing incentives, then upgrade to the modular Meaningful Use version that pays for itself with ARRA HITECH Act incentive money (with a lot left over!)
ARRA HITECH Act benefits to both patients and providers.
In "the old days," doctors might be called into the emergency room to provide patient medical history. But with this data now readily available in online Meaningful Use of EHR and e-prescribing solutions, doctors can quickly relay life-saving patient history information over the phone to the attending ER physician. In the actual practice setting, Meaningful Use of EHR and e-prescribing can make preventive care and other ARRA HITECH Act objectives much easier to achieve.
Again, look for solutions that offer a "stepping stone" approach to the above ARRA HITECH Act benefits, at a pace and price just right for the new medical practice.