EHR Certification: NOT Only For Medicare and Needed to Survive Health Care Reform

The handwriting is on the wall. Are you paying attention? The government has mandated that the Electronic Health Record (EHR) computer software that you use in your office must be certified in order to qualify for the Medicare stimulus of up to $44,000.00. It is also mandating certified EHR as part of Health Care Reform.


The certification is based on the Meaningful Use rules created by the government, and it is very clear that some of the Meaningful Use rules have NOTHING to do with Medicare. Included in the Meaningful Use rules are requirements for the software to record and keep track of the [1] smoking habits of each patient that is 13 and older, [2] growth charts for all patients between the ages of 2 and 20, and [3] body mass index (BMI) for each patient above the age of 2. The overwhelming majority of patients in these age groups are not covered by Medicare.


The Health Care Reform legislation also has hidden requirements. As Nancy Pelosi said, the bill “had to be passed for us to find out what is in it.” On April 8, 2010, the Health Care Department of Barnes & Thornburg LLP (a law firm) published an Alert in which they stated Several components of the healthcare reform legislation will explicitly or implicitly require providers to use EHR technology ….”. And since the EHR must comply with Meaningful Use, it must be certified.


What does this mean for you and your practice? Whether you like it or not, the expectation is that both the government and the insurance industry are going to mandate certified EHR even for those offices that never work with Medicare. When will this happen? At this point no one knows definitively, but the best guess is within the next year or 2. The bottom line is that if you are using an older computer program, you will need to upgrade to a certified system or NOT get paid by insurance.


How do you get a certified EHR system? The producer of your software must apply, get tested, and pass the test, or you must buy a certified EHR system. Why was it not available sooner? Because the government issued the Final Meaningful Use Rule in July but did not authorize any entity to test and certify until August 31. Applications could not be filed until September, and testing began in late October. As this is written, there are only 2 Chiropractic specific certified software systems.


You can start now to get certified software. Start with the company that makes the program that you already have and ask if they are going to get or already have certification. If yes, then find out [1] is there an additional charge to upgrade and how much it costs, and [2] if they do not have it yet, when do they expect to get the certification. Some companies are not charging their current clients to upgrade as part of their support. Others will charge an upgrade fee that may be as high as several thousand dollars. Some companies have been vigorously working on the certification while others may not get the certification until next year or beyond, or may not be working on the certification at all. If your current computer software vendor is not working on the certification, then the time has come to search for another computer system that will be certified in the near future.


Make sure your office is ready for the government and insurance requirements that come from the numerous pieces of legislation enacted into law since January 2009 that go into effect on January 1, 2011. 2011 is almost here. The bureaucrats have issued their edicts, and now we are stuck having to comply with them. Due to the ever increasing government mandates for certified EHR the costs of EHR systems are only going to increase over time. The sooner you obtain an EHR that will be/is certified, the less expensive will be your investment.


Push has come to shove, and the government is pushing us hard. Act now to protect your practice.

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