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This Whole Crazy EHR Thing

Let's take the confusion and fear out of this whole Electronic Health Records (EHR) thing.

Decades ago, the federal government mandated that all providers send their claims electronically. All providers? Well, yeah, all, all except the providers who were exempt. What's that thing they say about history repeating itself?

Despite the exemptions, the hype was so great that software companies seized this golden opportunity to push their outrageously expensive software. After all, they pitched, electronic billing is a federal mandate. Don't misunderstand. Electronic billing is the way to go, but providers never stopped to ask themselves some critical questions. Do I want my claims to get to the clearinghouse (the processing center that receives your claims then sends them onto the appropriate insurance companies) via a Volkswagen or a Porsche? Not knowing better, many providers opted for their claims to arrive in a Porsche and, as a result, went out of business.

I'm not serious, right? I'm very serious. Not only did providers opt to buy expensive software, but they had to buy it for each computer. Then, of course, there were costly annual licensing fees, mandatory and expensive upgrades, expensive clearinghouse fees, costly telephone lines, expensive training, gobs of office downtime, and lest we forget all the new computer hardware that had to be purchased because the "old" systems just wouldn't work.

What drove this economic boom for the software companies was fear: fear of penalties, fear of government reprisal, fear of technology. What fueled this fear and led many to bankruptcy courts was ignorance.

It's tough to teach an old dog new ways of utilizing technology; therefore, providers averse to technology will typically avoid the subject all together or overspend in order to compensate for their ignorance. Don't be offended. There's a difference between ignorance and stupidity, though frankly, not much. Well, I say that because you move into stupidville when you choose to stay ignorant. What many providers learned the hard way was that avoiding the issue or overspending on upgrading their office was not the answer. Many of those expensive systems fell by the wayside while many others lost their business because of it.

Let's fast forward to today's EHR mandate. There we go with that history repeating itself thing: federal mandate for all providers except those who are exempt; government penalties; fear of reprisals; fear of technology; and the outrageously expensive EHR systems with upfront costs for each computer, ongoing licensing fees, costly hardware, mandatory upgrades, and more of the same old same old.

The initial cost for new EHR systems run, on average, from $10K to $75K. Yes, I said initial cost. EHR systems are the old billing software systems with a new face and a higher price tag. Sure, they've added portals for patients to view their personal records; integrated lab data and e-prescriptions; implemented templates or bubble-type or touchpad systems that make patient charts easier; and a lot more. Believe me when I tell you this is all well and good, but a $75K initial cost? A little high priced, isn't it?

What drives the cost of these systems? Again. Your fear: fear of technology; fear of penalties; fear of government reprisals, fear, fear, fear. Breathe. Let's sort it out.

EHR systems are great. Note-taking is much easier and far more precise; dispensing prescriptions are a breeze; lab information is a snap, scheduling is simple, and much, much more. In addition, the government is paying providers to upgrade to a certified EHR system. Medicare reimbursement totals $44K over 5 years (thru 2015) while Medicaid reimbursement is $63,750 over 6 years (thru 2016). In addition, penalties will begin in 2015 for Medicare, and 2016 for Medicaid.

This year, 2013, for example, the government will reimburse providers 75% of the allowed amount for the Medicare patients seen for the 2013 calendar year -- up to $15K. Medicaid reimbursement is slightly higher. This is a plus, and the reason the government is doing this is to incentivize providers to upgrade to EHR systems. That's all well and good, but how much will this "free" money cost you?

We've routinely heard providers tell us they don't "care" about these incentives. Really? The last office we spoke with had 4 providers. An additional $60K this year isn't a big deal? Really? The real issue with practices like this is that these providers are middle-aged and fearful of the EHR technology. Think about this for a minute. They all have smart phones, but they're afraid of EHR technology? Ignorance isn't bliss -- it's downright expensive.

The real question you need to ask is how much will this "free money" cost? For many, the incentives and the penalties aren't cost effective. In other words, this "free money" will cost too much. What if this "free money" could be obtained with a fully CMS certified, 100% free, no hidden cost EHR system? Now we're talking.

The number one (for several years running now) web-based EHR system out there is 100% free. Training is free, no hidden costs, 100% free and it's certified by CMS. It's a good, good system, and it keeps getting better all the time. Now ask yourself: is a free EHR system that guarantees incentive payments and eliminates all penalties cost effective?

I know. You're wondering why we're telling you this. Do we make money on this 100% free software? Nope. Can you figure out the name of this EHR system all on your own? You better. We're certified in support of this EHR system, but the online training is so great you won't need us. Why are we telling you this? We're strong when you're strong. Period.

One last thought. October 3, 2013 is the deadline to receive government monies this year. If you miss that deadline, you are disqualified from receiving money for 2013. If you're even thinking EHR, go to the CMS website and enroll in the EHR incentive program before October 3, 2013. You don't have to do anything with it, but you won't be left out in the cold if you do implement the EHR system this year.  

Life doesn't have to be this hard. The simplest solutions are always the best.
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