Up to $44,000 is up for grabs for physicians who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology ($63,750 for those who participate through Medicaid), but they must successfully attest every year to ensure they are paid the maximum amount. According to the latest CMS data, 17 percent of physicians who received an incentive payment in 2011 did not receive one in 2012, even though the requirements were exactly the same.
Why was the drop-out rate so high? Jason Mitchell, MD, director of AAFP’s Center for Health IT, says it was because the reporting period for the second year of meaningful use is much longer. “For some physicians, the issue likely was a lack of ongoing monitoring of their meaningful use numbers throughout that entire year,” he said.
Others simply did not attest during the 2012 attestation window, for whatever reason. “A physician could have been a meaningful user the whole year and then missed the attestation deadline,” Mitchell said.
CMS has paid out over half ($15 billion) of the funds set aside for EHR incentives, but there is still plenty available for physicians to claim. What can physicians do to make sure they receive an incentive payment every year?
- Pay attention to the timelines established by CMS. It is crucial that you know when the attestation deadlines are and how long you will need to report for. To do this, you’ll need to have a long-term plan (spanning 2+ years) as well as short-term goals to help you meet the different measures for meaningful use.
- Keep regular reports of your meaningful use progress. For the second year of meaningful use, you’ll need to report on 365 continuous days. If you falter at meeting any of the baseline requirements during this time, you may not qualify for another incentive payment. Cranking out regular reports is a good way to stay on top of things.
- Make sure the appropriate EHR tracking tools are turned on throughout the duration of the reporting period. EHR vendors are always pushing updates to improve their products, so it’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure tracking mechanisms, such as the drug formulary feature, stays on through each update.
Because of the new government certification requirements, the reporting period for 2014 is only 90 days, regardless of which stage in the meaningful use process you’re in. However, establishing good habits now will prevent mistakes later on that could result in penalties.