CMS Issues Revised Guidelines for Electronic Medical Records Adoption

Physicians/hospitals could receive $27 billion to use electronic medical records.  The federal government has issued revised standards for the “meaningful use” of electronic medical records that will financially reward physicians and hospitals who adopt the new technology. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, physicians and hospitals could receive as much as $27 billion over the next decade if they put patients’ medical records on computer instead of paper.  Physicians can be paid up to $44,000 under Medicare and $63,750 for Medicaid.  Depending on their size, hospitals have the potential to receive millions of dollars.  In 2015, hospitals and physicians face financial penalties under Medicare if they fail to use electronic medical records by the deadline.

Dr. Donald Berwick, the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said electronic medical records will lead to “better, smoother care, more reliable care.”  Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “Only 20 percent of doctors and 10 percent of hospitals use even basic electronic health records.”  Taking a slightly different perspective, Richard J. Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association (AHA), said the new standards are an improvement over the rules initially proposed but was not convinced that doctors or hospitals would adopt the new technology.

Some physicians believe that using electronic medical records will reduce errors and save patients’ lives.  The new standards are flexible and require physicians to meet 15 specific requirements, as well as another five selected from a list of 10 objectives.  To fulfill the new standards, physicians will have to submit 40 percent of prescriptions electronically.  “We are delaying some of the more ambitious requirements,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health information technology.

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