EHR (Electronic Health Records) Incentive Program

EHR (Electronic Health Records) Incentive Program

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed to establish a stimulus funding program for healthcare organizations and healthcare services to promote the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR), the EHR Incentive Program.

Within the ARRA is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that intends to invest $22.6 billion (based on actuarial estimates as of January 2011) in healthcare IT to push the healthcare industry to completely forgo paper records by 2015. Physicians can qualify for up to $44,000 over a 5-year period in EHR incentives if they adopt a certified Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Incentives also increase for practices that accept Medicaid, up to $63,700 over a 6-year period.

With incentives scheduled to be significantly reduced after 2012, healthcare organizations are rushing to make the switch from paper records to digitized HIPAA compliant systems to ensure protected health information (PHI) meets industry standards of security.

In addition to partnering with an experienced EHR vendor, healthcare providers must also recognize the need for electronic centralized storage and future growth. Many are turning to outsourcing data centers due to the high costs, time and inefficiency of building or expanding their own data centers and IT infrastructure.

Data storage is particularly critical and challenging for the healthcare industry due to the specific nature of healthcare data. High resolution images such as X-rays or CAT scan files are liable to take up much more space than a typical text document. For example, the average text document file size may range from 20-70 KB, while a typical digitally formatted, high-quality X-ray image will have a file size of 20 MB (8 MB when compressed). Healthcare organizations, more than any other industry, require high-capacity, high availability data storage options that will allow them to grow as they make the full transition to Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Data storage is also becoming a challenge to keep up with due to physical server requirements, often driving up costs for space, hardware and other resources. One solution is virtualization – private cloud hosting provides a secure, highly available HIPAA compliant hosting option with quick deployment, scalability to add or remove servers as needed, and overall cost and energy-savings by significantly reducing hardware and resources needed for support. A private cloud is better suited to fit the requirements of the HIPAA Privacy Rule than a public or shared environment.

One approach is virtualization – private cloud hosting provides a secure, highly available HIPAA hosting solution with quick deployment, scalability to add or remove servers as needed, and overall cost and energy-savings by significantly reducing hardware and resources needed for support.

The EHR incentive program is pushing healthcare organizations to sign up by 2012, with payments being distributed in May 2011. If your company hasn’t started researching IT solutions yet, save time and go to the experts to find a custom, HIPAA compliant solution.

Sources:
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)