When Will I Have to Use an EHR?

Q. At what point, by law, do I have to change from paper medical records to an electronic health record (EHR)?

A. At this time, no hard mandate exists for physicians to use an EHR in their practice. But if you don’t, you will incur Medicare penalties beginning in 2015.

Currently, Medicare is the only payer planning to penalize physicians who aren't “meaningfully using” their EHR. (Simply having an EHR isn’t enough. You have to show the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services you are using it in a meaningful way.) The penalties begin at 1 percent in 2015 and will cap at 3 percent in 2017. If at least 75 percent of office-based physicians are not meaningfully using an EHR by 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary has the authority to ratchet up the penalty by two more percentage points, capping the penalty at 5 percent in 2019.

TMA has created a one-pager that charts the penalties for both scenarios and provides information on penalty exemptions.

To prevent the penalty, you must start your meaningful-use reporting period by July 1, 2014. So if are thinking about switching to an EHR, now is the time. Here’s how TMA can help:

  • Visit TMA’s Electronic Health Records webpage for information, tool, and resources to help you select and implement an EHR.
  • Download our EHR Implementation Guide: A Link to a Better Future for a nontechnical look at the steps you’ll need to take, with an emphasis on the needs of smaller practices.
  • Turn to the federally established regional extension centers for help with EHR selection, adoption, and meaningful use. For more information, visit www.texmed.org/rec.
  • Contact TMA’s Health Information Technology Department at (800) 880-5720 or HIT@texmed.org if you have questions related to EHRs and other office technologies.

Published July 23, 2013


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