There is a lot of confusion in the dental software industry regarding the electronic health records incentive program and meaningful use that most dental providers and office managers are not aware of. Some dental software vendors are utilizing a “smoke and mirrors” strategy utilizing this program to help sell their software. Over the past few months I’ve had a number of practices come to me for help with obtaining EHR Incentive funds, confused by what their vendors are saying Either their present software vendor or a new vendor has come to them with promises of getting them federal subsidies of $63,750 per dentist and adding a sense of urgency to the mix.
So, here’s where the confusion and the “smoke and mirrors” come in. A number of dental vendors have chosen, instead of building “certified EHR” features into their dental software, , which takes time, money, and resources, to offer a certified medical EHR along with their dental software. The EHR incentive program will pay $21,500 to each eligible dental provider for just “adopting” a certified EHR application. So, technically by just “acquiring and installing” a certified medical EHR, a practice can in theory get $21,500 for each of the eligible providers. However, this is where this model can break down. I just mentioned that the EHR incentive program will pay $63,750 per provider over a six-year period. So, how does a dentist get the other $42,000? The answer is that, in order to get the rest of the money, an eligible dentist must adhere to the Meaningful Use guidelines for the next five years. They must report on various criteria the federal government wants regarding how they are using their certified EHR. There are a number of core measures that the dentist must attest to. For example, drug- drug and drug- allergy checking, maintaining up to date problem lists, electronic prescribing (for those providers not excluded), use of electronic clinical decision support, providing electronic clinical summaries and records to patients. On top of that a dentist needs report on certain Clinical Quality Measures (CQMs) that are needed for population health reporting requirements for Meaningful Use.
The question is will you realistically use your dental software to run your operations on a day-to-day basis, and then turnaround and enter all the criteria that is needed for Meaningful Use in your “certified medical EHR” system? Because if you don’t, and you are just acquiring a medical EHR to obtain first year EHR incentive money of $21,500, then you will be leaving the additional $42,000 on the table.
Now, it’s hard to tell if an overzealous salesperson is trying to sell you the medical EHR because they don’t understand the six-year EHR incentive program, or if they are knowingly selling you the software with the knowledge that you can only obtain first year funds. But, in any case they are doing you a disservice if they aren’t giving you all the facts.
On top of not getting the right information about the program, I have heard from practices that some salespeople haven’t determined whether a practice or provider is eligible for the EHR incentive funds before going ahead and suggesting the practice purchases a medical EHR along with their dental software. The Medicaid based EHR Incentive program specifies that either a provider does a minimum of 30% Medicaid encounters over a 90 day period individually, or that the practice itself does an average of 30% Medicaid over a 90 day.
The bottom line is that if your dental software salesperson discusses the EHR incentive program with you, make sure you understand all the rules and regulations, and whether, by signing on the dotted line, you will be eligible for the full $63,750 per provider, or just the first year payout of $21,500. And make sure that whatever certified EHR you use to obtain your EHR incentive money, that it is certified under the 2014 ONC-ATB testing rules. There are certified EHRs there that have an older certification, so do your due diligence.
Hopefully, as EHRs take hold in dentistry, just as they did in medicine over the last few years, innovative dental vendors will do the right thing and invest resources and money in developing Meaningful Use features within their dental software, so using the EHR to capture and report on data for EHR incentive money is part of your daily patient care workflow.