Billions in Stimulus Funds Available to Private Practice Physicians

October 15, 2009

The health care industry is one of many industries that is benefiting from the government’s economic stimulus effort. One of the specific targets of the government’s efforts is electronic medical and health records (EMR). The goal is to have every patient’s paper medical history, regardless of their location, doctor, or insurance company, converted and stored electronically, within a national EMR standard. Striving to improve patient care

 Having these records stored electronically will make it easier for patients to move from one doctor to another and eliminate the redundancy of records. It would save time, dramatically lessen the needless paper trail and make it easier for insurance companies, which will save everyone money. Most importantly, being able to access comprehensive patient data quickly will have a positive impact on patient care.

Sharing of medical information is vital in order to receive proper care, particularly if the patient is seeking medical help away from home. Quick access to their records in an out-oftown emergency can help the local physician know about current medications and other important history that can provide answers in an emergency decision-making situation.

The government’s goal is that all health systems, hospitals, physicians and insurance companies accept and adhere to a national EMR standard in order for all patients to realize these excellent benefits. The good news is that steps are being taken in this direction. Since 2003 most of the large health systems in the U.S. have invested billions of dollars in an effort to establish the foundation for a national EMR standard.

The next target is focused on doctors in private clinical practices. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $19 billion that is being made available to these doctors and clinics as an incentive to invest in the technology upgrades necessary to bring their practices, and their patient’s records, up to government-mandated EMR standards. Physicians that meet the criteria and implement a national EMR standard system will be reimbursed through Medicare and Medicaid bonuses spread out over a five-year timeframe.

Joe Dylewski is a health care IT professional with ATMP Consulting Group and works with individual physicians and clinics looking to access these technology-upgrade stimulus funds. He’s quick to point out the importance of understanding how vital it is to implement the right system. “In order to qualify for these bonuses, physicians must choose an EMR system that provides meaningful use, which means the usage must adhere to specific guidelines set forth by Medicare and Health and Human Services,” cautions Joe. “It extends beyond the base implementation of the software, into the clinical processes. Also, the EMR system must meet standards set forth by HIPAA for patient information privacy and security and must be CCHIT certified.” The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology is a private, not-for-profit organization that provides EMR certification authority.

Deciding which vendor, or vendors, to turn to once they’ve made the decision to implement an EMR solution is a challenge for most physicians. Selecting and implementing the proper computing infrastructure and architecture to meet current and future needs is a significant investment, and a bad decision could be costly. There is talk that physicians that are not compliant with national EMR standards by 2015 could see a reduction in their Medicare payments. This potential penalty puts even more incentive on private practice physicians to make an informed decision on their EMR solution.

“Not only will doctors and clinics need to get onboard to avoid the potential government penalty,” advises Dylewski, “but large insurance payers are going to insist that physicians meet EMR standards. If they’re not, they’ll run the risk of losing their preferred provider status.”

To guide them through needs analysis and vendor selection, private practice physicians are turning to companies like ATMP Consulting Group to help them make informed and educated IT decisions. ATMP Consulting Group has industry-specific expertise to assist physicians in selecting and implementing the right EMR solution.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Failures of already-implemented and in-process EMR solutions are staggering and costing physicians millions of dollars. These system failures can be caused by insufficient requirements analysis and architecture design, purchased applications that do not align with clinical processes, and lack of project management and governance expertise. ATMP has a proven business model that ensures success. They conduct a thorough analysis of each physician, or clinic’s, needs. They will develop a vision that understands and balances current needs with future requirements. Once the strategy is in place ATMP will develop and distribute a comprehensive Request for Proposal, and can assist in the Vendor Selection process. It’s important to note that ATMP is not associated with one specific software or hardware provider, which means they are able to provide an objective voice in the decision making process. And once the system is installed, ATMP can be retained to ensure that the system is functioning according to design standards.

The rising cost of health care is a major talking point in staterooms, boardrooms and classrooms. Bringing all patient information into the 21st century is a necessary step that will have a positive impact on rising costs, and more importantly, on improved patient care. For more information, visit ATMP Consulting Group’s web site, www.atmpgroup.com. ###

Principal with ATMP Consulting Group

Joe Dylewski has been involved in Information Technology Leadership for more than 25 years. He is the President of ATMP Consulting Group and has advised executives of small and large companies on developing and implementing Information Technology strategies. Mr. Dylewski is the former Director of Compuware’s Health Care Professional Services business vertical and also serves as an Assistant Professor at Madonna University. He has written articles for industry publications and has accepted multiple speaking engagements.

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