As the conversion to EHR continues, the importance of using "certified" EHR technology becomes ever more important. Yet, many practices remain unsure of how to accomplish this necessary goal.
Using other technology can disqualify physicians from receiving incentive payments. It is important that medical providers become familiar with the certification process before embarking down the wrong road. As the Meaningful Use regulations are now in Stage 2, EHRs are vital, as is using certified EHR technology.
The process is defined by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The standards and certification criteria target meeting Meaningful Use goals and objectives.
Although a Temporary Certification was available, physicians should now focus on the Permanent Certification Program, since the final rule has been published. Pursue permanent certification since the ONC HIT Certification Program replace the Temporary Certification Program in October 2012.
To learn more about the certification process, visit the HealthIT.gov site to read the specifics about technology certification and view FAQs.
Certified EHR Technology
To be certified by CMS and ONC, systems must meet capability, functionality and security standards as defined by these agencies. To learn those systems that qualify, visit the Certified Health IT Product List at the ONC.
A key feature of software certification is that the software must store patient data in a consistent, structured format. By mandating an acceptable storage structure, providers can retrieve and transfer EHRs in consistent formats, making the process easier and more reliable.
It is important to note the wisdom of the cliché, "never assume." If you are already using an EHR system qualified for other Medicare incentive programs, you have no guarantee that your system is certified for use in the EHR Incentive Program. Always verify that you use software that is certified by the ONC and adopted by CMS for this specific program.
Understanding Meaningful Use and Certified EHR Technology
Using certified EHR technology advances the satisfaction of Meaningful Use requirements in the following ways.
- Improves the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare, removing disparities;
- Engages patients and their families in their healthcare efforts;
- Creates and improves coordination of care incentive requirements;
- Improve the quality and delivery of healthcare to the public; and
- Maintains the privacy and security of patient healthcare records.
The three primary components of Meaningful Use are dependent on using certified EHR technology.
- Using certified EHR systems in meaningful ways, such as e-prescribing.
- Certified EHR technology helps make electronic exchange of health information more efficient to improve the quality of healthcare; and
- Clinical Quality Measures (CQM) submission by certified EHR software is more effective.
As it has always been, the primary goal of Meaningful Use remains the same: To use secure data capture and sharing systems to permit advanced clinical processes, which lead to improved treatment outcomes.
The Time for Certified EHR Technology Is NOW
Since the reimbursement "adjustments" (disincentives) begin in 2015, and 2014 is almost one-half over, the time for using certified EHR software is upon us. Qualifying for incentives requires certified EHRs, but not using this technology will soon result in reimbursement downward adjustments, reducing your CMS payments.
If you do not currently use certified EHR software and/or have not added a module that brings your EHRs into compliance, consider an alternative. Evaluate a top medical billing and documentation firm, such as M-Scribe Technologies, to use a cost-effective alternative to installing certified EHR systems in your practice. Why invest in new software and staff training requirements if you do not have to do so? Let a leading firm, with state-of-the-art certified EHR technology operated by trained personnel do it for you.
The choice of earning EHR Program incentives or having your reimbursements "adjusted" seems clear. Whether you do-it-yourself of have a professional firm do it for you, the "thrill of victory" (earning EHR incentives) is much more preferable to the "agony of defeat" (enduring reduced reimbursements).