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Comment and Controversy

Electronic health records can pay for themselves

September 2009 · Vol. 21, No. 09


I agree completely with Dr. Bates’ argument for electronic health records (EHR). I am a software developer and provider of billing services, using my own PMS software, and I know a good deal about “real-world” experience. Dr. Bates is right: With an EHR in place, two important things can and should happen:

  1. You can see one or two more patients each day.
  2. If you will upgrade 20% of your 99213 codes to 99214, based on what you did for the patient—and documented—you can generate more than enough “brand-new” revenue to pay for virtually any EHR system.

J.S. McMillan
St. Louis, Mo

Does the stimulus offer extend to practices with existing EHR?

The article on the stimulus package prompts a question. Does this cash allotment for using electronic health records extend to practices that are already fully functional and using a Certification Commission for Health-care Information Technology (CCHIT) certification? We have been using electronic records for 6 years. Is there a form or application we should be completing?

Shelly Murphy
Carson City, Mich

Dr. Bates responds: Some aspects of stimulus are still being determined

I thank Mr. McMillan for his affirmation of the value of electronic health records—independent of any external stimulus funds. Physicians should expect a three-time return on investment within 12 to 15 months of implementing an EHR.

Ms. Murphy asks if the stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) money will be available to practices that began using EHR before 2010. I don’t have an answer, but it would seem unfair for practices that took the initial plunge to be penalized because they were early adopters.

I do know that current vendor CCHIT certification (2008) is not sufficient to qualify a practice for stimulus funds. Despite the marketing hype of several vendors, none is certified today with the “meaningful-use criteria” designated in the legislation. CCHIT suspended certification for 2009, awaiting definition of the term. Vendors expect the certification process that qualifies a practice to receive stimulus funds to begin in early 2010.

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