Money Matters - Simplified

New guidelines to encourage electronic health records by doctors and hospitals

The Department of Health and Human Services has revealed that hospitals can receive up to $27 billion to buy equipment to computerize patients’ medical records depending on their size.

The Federal government has issued a new set of guidelines on Tuesday to encourage and reward doctors and hospitals for the use of electronic health records for patients.

Hospitals would now have to digitize their medical records and meet some certain guidelines in order to benefit from the new government incentives to modernize medical files.

However, the qualifying requirements are quite flexible as compared to the earlier proposed standards.

The new guidelines
The Department of Health and Human Services has revealed that hospitals can receive up to $27 billion to buy equipment to computerize patients’ medical records depending on their size.

A doctor can receive up to $44,000 under Medicare and $63,750 under Medicaid.

Doctors would now have to meet 15 requirements, plus 5 chosen from a list of 10 goals while hospitals will have to meet 14 requirements, plus 5 chosen from a list of 10 objectives.

From the year 2015, hospitals and doctors would be financially penalized under Medicare for not employing electronic health records.

The guidelines instruct doctors and hospitals to use electronic systems for recording the demographic data (sex, race, date of birth), weight and blood pressure, medications; and smoking behavior of the patients.

Further, the doctors will have to transmit 40 percent of prescriptions electronically.

The new rules would surely improve the coordination of care and avoid the duplication of tests, suggest officials.

Dr. David Blumenthl, the national coordinator for health information technology, said doctors and hospitals would be defaulting on their “professional responsibilities” if they did not use electronic health records. Such technology can reduce medical errors, including mistakes that kill people, he said.

Doctors to be penalized
From the year 2015, hospitals and doctors would be financially penalized under Medicare for not employing electronic health records.

Dr. Donald M. Berwick, who was sworn in Monday as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said electronic health records would lead to “better, smoother care, more reliable care.”

The doctors and hospitals have long been reluctant to replace paper records with electronic records.

“Only 20 percent of doctors and 10 percent of hospitals use even basic electronic health records,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services.