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Understanding EHR Meaningful Use Hardship

Beginning in 2015, doctors who do not demonstrate meaningful use of an accredited electronic health record (EHR) system will be charged a penalty. Meanwhile, doctors who demonstrate meaningful use of an EHR system will receive certain financial incentives. According to a recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for overseeing the EHR Incentive Program, many doctors have experienced difficulties implementing an EHR portal into their practice.

Doctors who have been unable to implement an EHR system into their practice can apply for an EHR meaningful use hardship exemption. By applying for this exemption, the doctor avoids the penalty for not demonstrating meaningful use of an EHR, but does not receive the financial incentive they would have for demonstrating meaningful use of the technology.

Not all doctors need to apply for meaningful use hardship exemption. Based on criteria set forth by the CMS, the following providers are automatically granted a hardship exemption for 2015:

  • Physicians who are in their first year of practice
  • Physicians who provide more than 90% of their services in either an inpatient rehabilitation facility, or the emergency room of a hospital
  • Physicians in the following fields: diagnostic radiology, anesthesiology, or pathology

Hardship exemptions may be granted if the doctor can prove that switching to an EHR system would cause their practice significant difficulties, financial or otherwise. If approved, the hardship exemption is valid for only one payment year, and a new application would need to be submitted for subsequent years. Doctors seeking a meaningful use hardship exemption for 2015 have until November 30, 2014 to apply.

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