Magazine article Medical Economics

Check out This Lower-Cost Way to an EHR

Magazine article Medical Economics

Check out This Lower-Cost Way to an EHR

Article excerpt

Tech Talk

Is this the year you ga electronic health records? It may be, now that more hospitals are taking advantage of a legal green light to help you buy this software.

The federal government carved out exceptions to anti-kickback and self-referral laws in 2006 to la hospitals subsidize up to 85 percent of the cost of EHR software for members of their medical staffs. Subsidies even cover training, Interna connectivity, and help-desk support. For a number of reasons, hospitals were slow at first to exploit these safe harbors, but the pace of EHR subsidies has picked up.

Before you accept this helping hand, ask yourself these questions. Otherwise, you may find your hospital EHR deal crashing like a bad hard drive.

Can you afford the hardware? You'll have to foot this expense yourself. Fortunately, most hospitals are likely to offer EHR programs hosted on a computer outside your office in an application-serviceprovider, or ASP, model. That way, you don't have to buy a cosdy server to host the program yourself. However, to access your ? EHR, you'll still need either a desktop in each exam room or a mobile computer, and nurses need workstation devices, too. A soloist could easily spend $2,000 and up on this gear. Peripheral devices like scanners up the ante.

How do I integrate a new EHR with my practice management system? You could easily pay an EHR vendor $5,000 or more for "interface'' software that connects its program to your current practice management program, says healthcare IT consultant Mark Anderson in Montgomery, TX. This cost doesn't appear to qualify for federally blessed underwriting.

But don't despair. Subsidies can cover new practice management software provided it's coupled with the EHR program, and the software package is used "predominantly' for EHR purposes, according to the Feds. Some hospitals have already subsidized such combo deals, and that makes sense, since EHR and practice management systems are increasingly being sold as integrated products, often sharing the exaa same database. …

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