Let me be the first to announce the delay of the deadlines to qualify for EHR incentives. Actually, there is no official announcement or even open discussion – yet. But, I believe it is inevitable. I believe this for two reasons:
- In my experience, government mandates delays are the rule
- This EHR deadlines are completely unreasonable
Remember APCs, the revised Medicare funding mechanism for outpatient procedures? Remember the big push for the deadline followed by a last minute delay. In fact can anyone think of any significant government deadline that did not change? My favorite example is the recent cutover to digital television. We gave American couch potatoes years to go buy a converter box (or get cable service). Millions were spent on advertising, web sites and coupon giveaways. If there was ever a deadline that should have stuck it was that one. Still, it was delayed from February to June.
We are giving hospitals and medical groups less time to implement EHRs than we gave television stations to change their broadcast capabilities. The EHR is at least two magnitudes of order more complex. Integrated Delivery Networks, such as mine, have essentially one year to implement an EHR for doctors and another year to implement the hospital EHR. Note: I am assuming the rest of 2009 will be used for planning and waiting for the definition of “meaningful use.” I have been working on this my entire professional career. It is not a two year effort.
So, a delay is inevitable. That is not to say that CIOs and other healthcare executives should plan on a delay. I don’t think that would be prudent.
The other pressure for us is that healthcare, like corporate America, is focused on belt-tightening. I have a backlog of really good ideas to reduce the cost of care to our patients. Our new focus on Electronic Health Records will reduce our ability to implement these ideas. Then again, I think that was the purpose of the incentives. Get healthcare organizations to make EHRs a top priority to get them implemented once-and-for-all.