We had started to see it already- the exit strategy of physicians near retirement who could not afford to purchase and implement electronic health record systems. Since nearly half of the physicians in this country are near their 50s and 60s, this would be quite a blow for private practice as we know it.
As luck (and bureaucracy) would have it, they may not have to “pack their bags” so hastily.
The EHR Improvements Act was introduced this past month by Rep. Diane Black, a republican from Tennessee. This would relieve solo practitioners from penalties for failing to implement electron health records and meaningful use requirements, thereby establishing a “hardship exemption” for those doctors close to retirement. Until now, 2015 was designated the year that doctors who don’t meet meaningful use criteria would be faced with 1% penalties to Medicare reimbursements and increased to 5% for each year that it is not done. (this does not include the slashing of Medicare reimbursements that we may be seeing in the near future). The bill also holds a provision for an appeals process so that healthcare providers who have been given penalties, can contest them.
The requirements to establish meaningful use requirements can place a heavy burden on health practices in money, resources and time. Black quoted a Health Affairs article which ”
estimated that the total first-year costs of an EHR system for a five-physician practice to be $233,297, with average per-physician costs of $46,659.
“This is particularly difficult with smaller practices, and is an unattractive option for physicians in or near retirement that are not as inclined to make a long-term investment in the practice,” the summary states.
Finally legislators are using common sense.
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