President Obama signed the sweeping American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (or "Stimulus Bill") into law on February 17, 2009. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health Act (or "HITECH Act") was one component of the Stimulus Bill. Among other things, the HITECH Act legislation allocated over $17 billion dollars to facilitate the adoption of electronic health record technology by doctors and hospitals.
The bulk of the $17 million is slated to be paid to qualifying doctors and hospitals directly over the next several years. Those doctors and hospitals that adopt and put into meaningful use certain government-certified electronic health records ("EHR") systems between 2011 and 2015 will be eligible for substantial payments (for example, up to $44,000 for each doctor that accepts Medicare patients and more than $2 million for hospitals that accept Medicare/Medicaid patients). Payments are available for a limited period of time and certain payments decline depending upon the year of adoption. Moreover, those Medicare/Medicaid providers that fail to achieve meaningful use of certified EHRs by 2015 may face reductions in their Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements.
The government has proposed a very aggressive timeline for providers interested in taking maximum advantage of incentive payments. Uncertainties in the program exist, however, that make rapid adoption more difficult. For example, the government has not yet indicated which EHR systems will be "certified." There is a growing consensus that EHR systems that have been and will be certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (or "CCHIT") will be certified for purposes of the application of incentive payments under the HITECH Act. If CCHIT certification is chosen as the new standard, there may be a relatively limited pool of vendors to select from initially as only a fraction of the hundreds of EHR vendors have been or are seeking certification through CCHIT.
Race to Meaningful Use
In July 2010, the government more fully defined "meaningful use." Doctors and hospitals will be required to have deployed and used the certified EHR system in production for a period of time and demonstrate achievement of certain criteria in order to provide meaningful reporting of improved health outcomes back to the government. Consequently, in order to maximize their payments under HITECH, doctors and hospitals will need to begin the EHR selection process in the near future, and will need to move through the contracting and implementation processes efficiently.
What Context Can Do for You
In the face of tight time-frames, key uncertainties and a limited pool of vendors, doctors and hospitals have been put in a tough spot. This is especially true, given that procurement of EHR technology can be an involved and time-consuming effort. Context has been assisting healthcare providers in the acquisition of health information technology (or "HIT") for years. Our experienced attorneys have handled hundreds of HIT contracts on behalf of large hospital systems and smaller practices and chances are if your organization selects a CCHIT certified EHR as your preferred solution, we will have worked with your vendor.
For example, Context has assisted clients with the adoption of CCHIT certified HER, including: Allscripts Touchworks, Sage Intergy, NextGen EMR, Epic EpicCare, ACS Meditech, GE Centricity, Cerner Millenium and McKesson Horizon Clinicals, among others.
For physician practices and hospitals that will be acquiring certified EHR technology in order to take advantage of the HITECH incentive payments, Context's focused expertise in this area will help to guide your organization through the contracting process efficiently, while at the same time protecting your legal and business interests.
For hospitals that have already acquired EHR technology and wish to make such technology available to affiliated practices, Context has helped hospitals navigate the regulatory and contractual processes associated with pushing EHR and other HIT to non-owned physician practices. In particular, Context has drafted template agreements to enable Stark-compliant deployment of HIT to affiliated practices.