About Half of EHR Incentive Money Goes to Existing EHR Users

Posted on October 12, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

iWatch News recently put out an article talking about a survey that suggests that about half of the EHR incentive money is going to EHR users that have been using an EHR since well before the HITECH act.

Here’s an excerpt describing the process they used to get the 50% existing EHR user number:

iWatch News attempted through phone and email to interview all providers who had received the money; 62, or about a third, of the 188 distinct practices (some with multiple doctors who received money) and hospital chains on the list chose to respond. Health providers were asked for the brand of the technology they installed, when they installed it, whether they would recommend it to other providers and whether they have had any problems with it.

Of those who responded to the questions, almost half of the providers had installed the technology in the years before the stimulus program was announced — some dating as far back as the 1990s.

This doesn’t sound like the most statistically significant survey that there could be. Plus, I’d be interested to know what date they used for when someone “implemented” their EMR and when the HITECH Act actually had any influence on their EHR decision making process. The point being that I’m guessing that a large number of those surveyed were counted as being in the 50% that were influenced by the HITECH Act when in fact many of them probably barely knew about the HITECH Act and had started their EHR implementation or would have started their EHR implementation with or without their HITECH Act.

While the article spins this as the government incentive not increasing EHR adoption, I’d say that 50% is a pretty good number. I’d have thought that the number of existing EHR users that got the EHR incentive money would be a lot higher. Maybe it actually is based on what I said in the last paragraph.

As far as the EHR stimulus money going to already implemented EHR installs, it’s not as bad as what some may say. Sure, if the goal of the HITECH Act was just to get widespread EHR adoption, then it would be considered a failure on that count. However, there are some benefits that go beyond new EHR adoption. For example, many of the existing EHR users were no doubt using old EHR software that could have been upgraded, but never was upgraded. Meaningful use and the EHR incentive money has required them to do the upgrades and will require that they stay up to date as the new MU stages come out. Using the latest software release is good on many levels.

Another advantage of meaningful use and EHR incentives for long time EHR users is it gets them to actually use the software. I know it’s a unique concept, but unless you’re in the industry you probably don’t realize that many many many EHR implementations only use about 10% of the features that are available. We could argue whether meaningful use gets them using the right features, but as doctors investigate meaningful use they’ll often find EMR features they didn’t realize existed or were too lazy to implement. Many times this helps a doctor become more efficient and enjoy use of their EHR software. Both great things.