As you know, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010. Since then, Washington has slowly begun implementing new laws that change how health plans and providers conduct business. The newest of these laws is centered on reducing paperwork and administrative costs, which is scheduled to go into effect October 1, 2012.

The changes that occur due to this new law are a result of efforts to standardize billing and require health plans to implement methods of operation that provide the secure, confidential and electronic exchange of health information.

The Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs will provide incentive payments to eligible professionals and eligible hospitals as they demonstrate adoption, implementation, upgrading, or meaningful use of certified EHR technology. These incentive programs are designed to support providers in this period of Health IT transition and instill the use of EHRs in meaningful ways to help our nation to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient health care

Whereas providers originally had to fulfill 25 objectives, the final regulations make it so providers will now only have to meet just 14 or 15 “core” requirements dealing with EHR basics.  An example of these core requirements is being able to enter patient data and use a computer-based system to record medical orders.  Hospitals and doctors then can pick an additional five objectives from a menu of ten options. Those include incorporating some lab tests results into records and providing a summary of care record for patients transferring to another facility.  The final requirements also relax some of the required levels of achievement for those objectives.  For example, doctors’ offices now have to transmit 40% of prescriptions electronically to meet that requirement, not 75%.

In addition to the $27 billion of incentives CMS will be distributing to providers who meet these objectives, the advantages of using electronic health records include reduced paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduced medical errors and further achieve the goal to improve the quality of care. For more information regarding these new laws, please visit