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The HITECH Act was signed into law on February 17, 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The main goal of this act is to encourage the adoption of Electronic Medical Records or EMRs (also referred to as Electronic Health Records EHRs) through incentive payments to physicians and hospitals (eligible providers).

It is highly advisable that you begin the planning, implementation, and training on your chosen system in 2010.


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were initiated to provide approximately $787 billion in spending and tax cuts with the intent to stimulate a sagging U.S. economy. The health IT portion of this bill is known as the HITECH Act, which includes $35 billion for physicians and hospitals (a.k.a. eligible providers) for the implementation of a qualified EMR (Electronic Medical Record) system.

ARRA stipulates that in order to qualify for these incentives, eligible providers must employ an EMR system that has been certified for interoperability, security, and functionality with the goal of increased efficiencies and the elimination of the costly antiquated paper process. Providers must also demonstrate "meaningful use" of the EMR.

To be a meaningful user, the provider must meet these requirements:

  • You must use electronic prescribing functionality, meaning you must send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically.
  • You must have an EMR that provides for the electronic exchange of health information in a manner designed to improve the quality of health care, meaning your EMR must connect to other EMRs such as those at hospitals, laboratories, and other provider practices.
  • You must submit statistical information on quality of care to the government so it can determine if EMRs are improving the health care system.

Overall, the estimated cost for implementing the HITECH Act is 19.2 billion, of which approximately 17.2 billion which will be used to fund the incentives listed in the HITECH Act.

It is yet to be determined, but incentives may be paid in a single consolidated payment or as periodic installments.

You may participate in either the Medicare or Medicaid incentive program, but not both.

Incentives for participating in Physicians Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) may run concurrent with the HITECH Act's incentives; however incentives for electronic prescribing may not.

If you cannot demonstrate meaningful use of an EMR system by the beginning of 2011 the chances of capturing the full $44,000 available to eligible providers will be diminished.

Beginning in 2015, those who have not implemented and EMR system and demonstrated its meaningful use will see their Medicare fee schedule reduced by 1% which can grow to as much as 5% by 2018.

There has been extensive research which has shown that implementation of an EMR helps to improve patient care, increase patient safety, and simplifies compliance.

The proper implementation and learning of an EMR system can take up to a year so it is imperative that you begin your process right away to not only take advantage of incentives which may be available to you but to increase the safety, well-being, and care of your patients.

Return On Investment (ROI) may also be realized through a reduction in premiums through your malpractice insurance carrier.

Oncore Associates