Hospitals with electronic health records (EHR) may be eligible for meaningful use incentives as early as October 2010, and physicians follow soon after. What if a provider is hoping to take advantage of the incentives, but is still fully paper-based? Waiting for the release of final rules on the incentive program and EHR certification before moving forward may not be wise.
Providers should begin by looking into the reasons their facility doesn't have many of the components that make up an EHR, or lacks an electronic system altogether. For example, if providers haven't begun to invest in a system because of high up-front costs, they may be able to obtain funding that can help.
"Right now, there is a significant amount of money that is being funneled through the states for health IT," says Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, OR. Depending on their location, healthcare providers may be able to take advantage of it.
"Go to the medical association in your state that you're a member of, and put a little pressure on them," he says.
If your state has grant or loan funding available, remind your association that there is money available and encourage them to lobby and partner with others to push your state to start allocating EHR funding, whether it happens to be low- or no-interest loans or outright grants.
If your state is not offering funding, there may be other programs you can find that offer no- and low-cost loans and other programs to provide support and consultative assistance, especially for small hospitals and physicians, says Margret Amatayakul, RHIA, CHPS, CPHIT, CPEHR, FHIMSS, president of Margret\A Consulting in Schaumburg, IL.