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practice-reimbursement profi le and planned-imple- mentation timing, these tools will calculate annual allowable incentive payments over the life of the incen- tive program. Most impor- tantly, you can input vari- ous what-if scenarios with regard to implementation timing and immediately

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see the impact on total incentives. Using this type of approach, our solo-practitioner friend discovered that, given her practice’s goals and profi le, she had more than a year to begin her initial EHR implementation and still receive maximum incentive payment.

will allow you and your staff to grow comfortably into the more complex use of the system and reporting. Over time, not only will meaningful-use requirements increase in complexity, but the EHR software itself will require enhancements to accommodate those more complex requirements. However, ramping up a new EHR is not always a year-long process. Another solo practitioner, Dr. Kim Jackson of Point of Light Family Medicine, went from planning stage to full implementation in 90 days on a Web-based EHR from AdvancedMD.

An easy way to cut through the hype and get to the core issues with regard to implementing an EHR and maximizing incentives is to utilize an EHR incentive calculator.

The other important facts to understand are the impact and timing of meaningful use, which you will be required to demonstrate in order to qualify for the incentives. A simple way to get your arms around these issues is to leverage the knowledge of EHR vendors whose products will have to comply. Have them sum- marize the standards and provide a roadmap for their products’ compliance. Look for vendors who demon- strate an understanding of the evolving standards and show commitment to making your qualifi cation for meaningful use as simple and painless as possible.

Key #3: Why now?

While there is no need to panic with regard to EHR implementation, there are a number of good reasons not to delay the decision. First, consider the experience factor. Meaningful- use requirements start out fairly simple in the fi rst year, but they increase in intensity with each succeed- ing stage. Moving to an electronic record is a non-trivial process for most practices. Learning and mastering it over time in lockstep with increasing requirements will be much easier than diving into the deep end in the year incentive requirements ratchet up. An earlier start

Second, private payers are quickly moving toward providing incentives of their own, based on demon- strated improvements that will, in many cases, parallel government requirements. These pay-for-performance bonuses can add up to an additional 8 percent in reim- bursement. A system that substantiates these require- ments quickly and easily, based on an experienced and knowledgeable staff, can improve your reimbursement and profi tability picture that much sooner. One additional point to consider: Delays in rolling out updates to premises-based systems can impact your ability to comply and receive incentive payments. Typically, an on-site upgrade is required not only to the EHR system, but often to other components of the computer system as well. These delays can run into months and, in some estimates we’ve seen, even years. Make certain that your vendor will be ready to install when you are ready to go. One fail-safe way to ensure this is to go with a Web-based, hosted system; this approach eliminates the need for onsite servers, software and upgrades.

Key #4: Beyond the incentives While change seems to come slowly in the healthcare

industry, a new era of rapid change is upon us. Technol- ogy, policy, public demand and economics are all aligning to drive some of the biggest movements in the industry to date. While jumping into technology too early may be painful and costly, standing on the sidelines could be even more devastating in the long run. The downside of delaying implementation hits di- rectly at the core of your ability to survive and thrive


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