Electronic medical record (EMR) incentives are part of a government-led program in the United States of America to encourage medical facilities and professionals to use computerized medical record systems. The systems are also frequently referred to as electronic health records (EHR). Eligible organizations and individuals are given payments based on the extent to which they have either started the use of or updated an electronically-based health-care record system. EMR incentives were a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009.
In order to be eligible for EMR incentives, the technology used must be certified by Medicare and Medicaid, government programs developed to help low-income and elderly citizens pay for medical expenses. This means the equipment must possess a certain level of security, functionality, and technological ability. The overall goal is that patients’ information be kept secure and organized in such a manner that the files can be used and maintained accurately. These elements are evaluated with specific meaningful use criteria. The US government provides information on which modules are deemed to be within these criteria.
Payments for EMR incentives are distributed annually over the course of five or six years. In order to receive a payment, the professional or medical facility must submit a status report in a format determined by Medicare or Medicaid. These reports must be submitted by due dates also set by these organizations. There are different reporting dates and requirements for individual professionals and medical facilities.
By obtaining an official Certification of Health Information Technology, a medical professional or facility can provide proof that all the necessary guidelines for equipment use and function have been met. There are both temporary and permanent programs available for attaining this certification. Programs are provided by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The exact EMR incentives offered depend on whether they are pursued through Medicare or Medicaid. Differences between the incentives offered by these organizations include the amount of money offered, the number of years over which the payments are distributed, and whether or not additional incentives are available. For example, if the applicant cannot continuously demonstrate meaningful use of an EMR system, then Medicare can make an adjustment in payments, while Medicaid cannot.
EMR incentives were introduced by the US government in the hopes that more medical facilities and professionals would begin to use electronic record-keeping systems. Their overall purpose is to improve security and efficiency in the way client records are used and maintained. It is believed that this will thus increase overall confidence in the healthcare system.