Majority of EHR investors not looking to take part in 2015 incentive program

The number of physicians adopting electronic health records has begun to drastically increase over recent years. The interoperability and enhancement of patient care are just a few of the many features of the system that have made EHRs popular for large and small practices alike. 

Why is meaningful use participation lagging?
However, a recent report from SERMO and Medical Practice Insider showed the results of a survey given to 2,000 physicians asking if they intended to attest for stage 2 meaningful use in 2015. The results showed an alarming number of physicians who plan to implement EHR systems without a focus on the EHR Incentive Programs or receiving meaningful use incentives

Numerous polls and reports have made it clear that there is a consistent increase in the number of physicians who have been adopting EHRs into their practices. This is surprising, however, as the most recent SERMO survey showed that 55 percent of physicians were not going to attest to stage 2 meaningful use. What does this mean? It seems as though providers are feeling that, although EHR systems have benefits that make them worth investing in, the new meaningful use incentives are not worth attesting for. 

According to EHR Intelligence, one health care IT consultant explained that many physicians attesting for stage 2 meaningful use believe that the incentives they will receive will help them recover from EHR costs. However, the problem is that they often fail to look at hidden and opportunity costs that throw off the balance between expenditures and incentives. This issue stems from the fact that many practices do not have the proper information they need to go into meaningful use with a clear understanding of value, costs and return on investment.

Quality over quantity
Since the start of the EHR Incentive Programs in 2009, providers have been paid over $10 billion by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Upon the implementation of the HITECH Act that established these programs for hospitals and providers, almost two-thirds of physicians who invested in health IT devices reported that the incentives were the biggest influence in adopting these systems. 

In 2012, the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey found that approximately 75 percent of office-based primary care physicians had some form of EHR system. However, since then, physicians have realized the reality of the incentive programs and the difficulty they must face in order to avoid penalties.

Many physicians reported that adhering to stage 2 meaningful use standards has made it challenging to put the proper quality and care into patient visits. These requirements also tend to make it harder to find the best EHR system at the best price. 

Stage 2 requirements call for a major investment of energy and time. Although understanding the requirements can be done rather quickly, they tend to change frequently and physicians are having a difficult time keeping up. A lot of providers see the financial penalty as less of a burden than attempting to stay on track and meet the new standards. 

There are many practices with the option to attest to either stage 1 or stage 2 that plan to stick to stage 1 meaningful use, as the software features and interfaces are easier to use compared to those of stage 2, according to Medical Practice Insider. If physicians and organizations can work with the CMS to ease the strict stage 2 meaningful use standards, the number of practices adopting EHR systems is likely to soar even higher. The potential for EHRs to improve care quality and enhance practice workflow would be taken advantage of by more physicians and not so overshadowed by the daunting MU standards.