While only slightly more than two-thirds of primary care physicians in the United States used electronic medical records (EMR) in 2012, this is an increase of 50% over the 46% that reported using them in 2009. This data is documented in a Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey, which was published in Health Affairs.
The use of electronic medical records can make physicians' offices more efficient and improve the quality of patient care by making their medical history available to any physician treating them. Unfortunately, many physicians still prefer to maintain voluminous files containing patient information and illegible handwritten comments and progress notes.
Make no mistake about it, electronic medical records are the way of the future for medical practices of all sizes. With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and its constitutionality ruling by the United States Supreme Court last June 28, 2012, healthcare reform is on its way. A mandate requiring electronic medical records for all practitioners is a part of PPACA and is set to take effect in 2014. Some mandates included in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have been included in and strengthened under the PPACA.
Funding for the EMR legislation will cover a span of 10 years. By the end of that time, it is hoped that all practices will have implemented electronic medical records. Incentive programs are available through the federal government. Some professionals meeting federal requirements for EMRs can get up to $44,000 through the Medicare Electronic Health Records Incentive Program. Others who are providing service to patients in a Health Professional Shortage Area might qualify for incentives in excess of $44,000. Incentives for institutions are significantly higher, starting at $2 million, but the requirements are stiffer than for individual professionals.
Naturally there are requirements established by the federal government to make certain the incentive funding is being used properly. For example, there are specific formats for use in the areas of medical billing, patient medical history and employee communication.
Ultimately, the use of modern technology to comply with the electronic records mandate of PPACA will make our healthcare system better, provide better care to the patients and make it more affordable to all.
There are going to be many questions that arise as the new law unfolds and is actually implemented. If you have concerns about EMR mandates or other compliance issues for your profession, you need to seek advice from a Georgia attorney experienced in health care law.
Kevin S. Little is a lawyer who has offices conveniently located in Atlanta and Augusta. He has two decades of experience and he represents physicians, physician groups and other health care businesses, advising them in matters involving health care law and employment issues. Kevin is the recipient of the highest lawyer rating by Martindale Hubbell.
Please contact us in Atlanta (404) 685-1662 or Augusta (706) 722-7886 for a no obligation, confidential consultation.
Related Blog Posts:
How The PPACA Can Affect Your Medical/Dental Practice , Health Care Law Blog, January 19, 2013
Tips For Improving Your Medical/Dental Practice, Health Care Law Blog, December 27, 2012
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.