I received this question today from a doctor and thought the response was worth sharing.
It is honestly an unknown as far as when are we “absolutely” required to use EHR.
Most would say the government and medicare (I guess they are one of the same right) would like you to have already implemented and started using an EHR system. The goal of last year’s stimulus incentive announcements was to motivate doctors to get out of the early 1900s of using notebook paper charts and become current with other industry. Almost every major industry has been using computer systems since the mid-late 90s (banking, housing, accounting, legal, etc).
Although I don’t think they will technically ‘force’ you to move to EHR, but I think they have some ways they can strongly encourage you to do it.
The first way is to reduce medicare payments for those who are not using a certified EHR. This I believe is scheduled to start in 2014. This is the year most are saying ‘you have to have software by this time’. Now if you don’t do much medicare, or you dont care about losing 1% of a $20 medicare adjustment.. then this isn’t much incentive at all.
I think the 2nd step would be insurance payments would also be reduced for those not using an EHR. They could also increase the amount you lose for those not compliant.
So they could really push you to do this by taking away your money and essentially ‘force’ you to move and make your normal income.
A more drastic step from insurance could be to no longer pay for providers not using EHR. This would be a big step, but a very effective one to get 90% of doctors to make the move.
For those small cash practices, there is likely no real way you could be ‘forced’ to buy EHR. However it might be challenging to get referrals and continued patient visits when everyone else in town has EHR.
Have a great weekend.