If someone in your circle is working in a health sector or health IT sector, I am sure you must have heard about the MU (Meaningful Use) standards. MU program was introduced by U.S. government as a part of 2009 HITECH Act. Let’s get deeper knowledge around HITECH Act and then we will come back to Meaningful Use (MU) in my next post.
What is HITECH Act?
It’s the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act enacted is a part of former President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package and meant to stimulate industry-wide EHR (Electronic Health Record) adoption.
1967 is the time when computer use to take an entire room. Medical researchers began to record their findings electronically, but scalability and cost limited it spread beyond the halls academia. Around 1986 the race was on to put a computer on every desktop. In the 1990s, laptop became a business necessity. Doctors went online to do research, email, etc except record and exchange clinical information. Now the technology is sophisticated enough to digitize and index the medical records of every single person in the company, still, only 40% of doctors have adopted EHR and only 20% are using it. President Obama realized to stimulate EHR adoption, the industry will be going to need a little push, which brings us to HITECH ACT.
Getting back to HITECH ACT:
On 18th Feb 2009, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka Stimulus Package), was signed by President Obama into law. It contained new legislation also known as Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). It uses financial incentives to encourage the physician to adopt certified EHRs.
Through increased use of EHR, the government plans to achieve the goal of a national health information network. This will result in :
- Improved quality of care
- Patient safety
- Lower costs
Starting in 2011 with more than $17 billion distributed in the form of incentives, their aim is to encourage 90% of all doctors to become meaning users of EHR by 2019.
How does a physician qualify for this incentives??
- Purchase and use government certified EHR
- Demonstrate “meaningful uses” i.e. prove to the govt that EHR is properly implemented according to their criteria.
How much of that $34 billion is available for a physician?
It depends on which incentives program is the physician eligible for. HITECH act provides two separate programs: Medicare and Medicaid.
Medicare: A physician can earn up to 75% of his/her allowable charges up to a maximum $44000 over 5 years.
Medicaid: Up to $63,750 is available to a physician, to see more than 30% of Medicaid patients. (For pediatrician, that number is reduced to 20%)
Note: A physician will be penalised if there will be a delay or if the physician decides not to implement an EHR. He/She not only lose incentives but the govt will also be decreasing his/her reimbursement rate.