Electronic Records, Physician Incentives or Penalties: the Scoop

The times….. they are a changing. And rapidly. Are you ready? The clock is ticking for private practice physicians to implement electronic records or face penalties. How much time is left? What kinds of fines will be assessed? Should you select EHR or EMR software? Here’s the info in a nutshell.

First, there is a difference between Electronic Health Records and Electronic Medical Records. According to National Alliance for Health Information Technology, they are described as follows:

EMR: The electronic record of health-related information on an individual that is created, gathered, managed, and consulted by licensed clinicians and staff from a single organization who are involved in the individual’s health and care.

EHR: The aggregate electronic record of health-related information on an individual that is created and gathered cumulatively across more than one health care organization and is managed and consulted by licensed clinicians and staff involved in the individual’s health and care.

Basically, if you are a specialist, the best option would be an EMR. The software for this technology is more streamlined for your type of work flow and is not as general as the overall health record information found in the EHR. An EHR is a comprehensive solution for that provides an overall snapshot of a patient’s health, history, and will be used for future pay per performance incentives.

Part of the stimulus package requires that physicians implement a software that has been government certified in order to qualify for the bonuses. For a list of vendors and more detailed information regarding the certification requirements visit these websites:



The deadline for EHR/EMR implementation is 2014 and the penalties that kick in afterward are in the form of levied Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement reduced by 1%-5%.  Besides not having reduced reimbursement, there are additional benefits to implementing electronic medical records which include:

  • Increasing value of your practice if you choose to sell it – younger physicians are tech savvy and will demand electronic patient records
  • Staying in good form with the government – at some point they will want patient records electronically and will expect to receive reports in a certain format in order to reimburse at full value
  • Providing access of patient records to caregivers – 30% of the US population provides care by taking their loved one to doctor appointments, ensuring medication is taken properly, caregivers need online access to provide quality care

Surveys indicate that 40%-50% of physicians have already adopted electronic medical records in their practice, but time does fly, so if you need help starting the process and feel overwhelmed, check out this PDF from the American College of Physicians.  

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