Don’t blame the software for EHR failure

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The following is a guest post by Houston Neal of Software Advice

You’ve heard about the $850 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009 – the stimulus bill recently passed by Congress. The bill is aimed at spurring economic growth across multiple industries by way of government spending. What’s in it for healthcare providers?

Providers can take advantage of $19 billion, which will be used to incentivize medical practices to adopt and implement Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Starting in 2011, providers deemed to be “meaningful users” of EHR systems will be eligible to receive $40,000 – $60,000 in incentive payments paid out over five years in the form of increased Medicare and Medicaid premiums. The table below illustrates the amount of a subsidy paid each year (columns) based on the year the provider first becomes eligible (rows):


For the first year a physician is deemed to be a meaningful user, he or she will be eligible for payments of 75% of that year’s Medicare and Medicaid charges, up to a maximum of $15,000. The maximum payment is increased to $18,000 if the first year is 2011 or 2012. The incentive payments decline for each subsequent year within the five year period; $12,000 will be paid in year two, $8,000 in year three, $4,000 in year four, and $2,000 in year five.

No incentive payments will be available after 2015, and no payments will be offered to physicians who first become eligible after 2014. This creates a decreasing incentive for late adopters.

The EHR subsidy has stimulated demand for EHRs, but will “free” EHR software lead to meaningful use? Will providers consider the critical implementation and change management practices that are critical to success?

Software Advice, a website that offers reviews of electronic medical records, suggests that “free” EHR software will result in a lot of failed implementations over the next few years. They’re concerned that the subsidies won’t change healthcare providers’ late adopter mindsets about information technology. They have outlined their thoughts on why IT projects fail and how providers can avoid that fate while capitalizing on the subsidy: “Get Ready for EHR Failures, But Don’t Blame the Software.”

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