“$44,000.00 extra in my pocket sounds great. But will I actually get it?” This question has been popping up frequently. Is it the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Or is it cash in your pocket? The answer is “it depends!” It depends on whether or not you meet the criteria Medicare demands.
There is a massive quantity of misinformation about the $44,000 stimulus for using Electronic Health Record (EHR) software. There are many reasons to use EHR that have nothing to do with the Medicare stimulus. Getting the stimulus should be considered an unexpected bonus when you qualify. The non-stimulus reasons to use EHR programs in your office include increased efficiency, greater income, reduced office expenses, referrals from other doctors, compliance with insurance programs, and more patients. Simply put, you need EHR, whether or not you will get the Medicare stimulus.
When the government enacted the stimulus law, it sounded as if every doctor that uses EHR software was going to get a check for $44,000. Then the government issued some rules that each practice must meet in order to qualify for this stimulus. Meeting these rules is determined by  using certified EHR and  demonstrating “meaningful use” of EHR software. Since the stimulus will be paid as bonus payments in Medicare checks, you must be involved with Medicare to get the stimulus. It is still NOT known if the stimulus will be paid to non-participating doctors that accept assignment, or if it will only go to those participating.
At the head of the list of government rules is that you MUST be using certified EHR computer software by the end of this year (2010) in order to receive the stimulus money starting in 2011. The government hired the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) as the certifying agency. CCHIT examines the software program to a see if it includes all the criteria required by the government. Since CCHIT was hired, the government has revised and changed the criteria for certification several times.
On 12-31-09, the newest certification standards were issued and include the requirement to demonstrate “meaningful use.” This means that the computer software must have the ability to report on approximately 25 items that show Medicare or other government agencies that you are making “meaningful use” of the EHR system. The current meaningful use criteria added electronic claims and electronic verification of insurance coverage. The implication is that you must have a complete EHR system that includes both documentation and billing. The EHR software that you use must be able to generate reports that demonstrate that you are making “meaningful use” of the program. Certified software will include this ability.
So, if you have certified EHR software and demonstrate meaningful use of it, then you will qualify for the Medicare stimulus. Now, here is the catch: As this article is being written, there are NO Chiropractic specific programs that have received 2011 certification. There are several companies actively working to obtain the certification. Be sure that you check with your software vendor to find out how much it will cost for you to upgrade to the certified program when it is available. Some companies will provide the certified software as a free upgrade to recent new clients or to clients with current active maintenance support agreements. Others may charge for the upgrade.
Starting in 2014, Medicare will impose penalties (reductions in payments) to each office that is NOT using a certified EHR program. Although the requirements are being established by and for Medicare, based on historical precedent, non-government insurance programs are likely to demand the same standard of certified software in your practice in the not too distant future. The time has come for you to take action and bring your office into the 21st century with a full and complete EHR system that incorporates SOAP documentation, scheduling, billing and marketing.
Dr. Paul Bindell is a 1975 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, in practice in Rockaway, NJ, since 1976. He has lectured on Chiropractic in Brazil and Israel and is a past Chairman of Public Relations for the Northern (NJ) Counties Chiropractic Society. In 1991, Dr. Bindell and his family began Life Systems Software so that the profession would have reliable computer programs based on real Chiropractic practice. As a Chiropractic computer consultant, Dr. Bindell has become the expert in assisting the profession and, specifically, individual Chiropractors to improve and grow successfully. Dr. Bindell can be reached by email at [email protected], or by calling Life Systems Software at 1-800-543-3001.