When the office staff at the OB-GYN practice of Dr. Catherine F. Vanderloos in Shreveport, La. opened the mail on Jan. 25, 2011 they became one of the first practices in the United States to get paid by the government for the adoption and implementation of an electronic health record under the Medicaid EHR incentive program.
And the $21,250 was immediately deposited in the practice bank account.
“We knew it was coming. We didn’t know how much. When we opened it up we were pleasantly surprised,” says Linda Pourteau, the billing manager.
Due to its high Medicaid population, the Vanderloos practice is eligible to participate in the Medicaid incentive program, as opposed to the Medicare program, and is also part of athenahealth’s first wave of Medicaid participants in Meaningful Use. Account managers will reach out to athenahealth clients in states where Medicaid EHR incentive programs have opened for Registration and Attestation and help them gain payment. (Based on their particulars, each practice that sets out to achieve Meaningful Use must choose to do so under either the Medicare or Medicaid incentive program.)
Working with Dr. Vanderloos and Pourteau provided athenahealth with a better understanding of the Medicaid Registration and Attestation process, which will enable account managers to help other Medicaid eligible clients more easily complete this process and earn payment.
Because our electronic medical record, athenaClinicals, is certified for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use and was automatically released for use by all athenaClinicals clients in October, we passed a major milestone towards helping our providers achieve Meaningful Use. We are working with four other practices in a Meaningful Use “Pilot” for Medicare to gather lessons learned and best practices for our network of clients as they begin their own journeys to Meaningful Use.
And despite all the hand-wringing around uncertainty over program requirements, it turns out that for this solo-doctor Medicaid provider, receiving her first check was easier than buying a book online.
Pourteau said when they began the process of registering for Meaningful Use, all they needed to do was sign in on the web portals at the state and national levels. With support from their athenahealth account manager, the practice provided its NPPES user name and password, NPI number, Medicaid local provider number and points of contact.
This step wasn’t hard because athenahealth provided the practice with the information that was required and the practice had diligently maintained records.
“You have to keep it all updated because everyone knows sooner or later, everyone has to be on an electronic medical record,” she says. “I’m just the one who kept good records. I was the little gopher that was digging holes in the yard.”
Once the time came to enter the vendor number in mid-January of this year, athenahealth’s designation was recognized as a provider of a Stage 1 certified EHR, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid apparently cut a check very soon after because a big one arrived in Shreveport less than two weeks later.
And the money could not have come at a better time.
“It’s making a huge difference. Louisiana Medicaid has gone through a ‘takeback’ program on services performed a year ago and two years ago,” and has been retroactively taking back money already paid out for services rendered, Pourteau says, to make up for shortfalls.
“They hit us for over $40,000. This is money that has already been paid to practices. The money has already been spent. But with government, what can you do?” she says.
The Vanderloos practice uses both athenaClinicals and our practice management service, athenaCollector. They’ve been clients since 2008 and Pourteau says staff from other practices often come by to see how athenahealth can make a difference.
But when it comes to achieving Meaningful Use, she says many practices she knows seem to dragging their feet.
“I think that in the here and now, people are putting EMR on the back burner,” she says. “They are waiting until someone says ‘You have to do this.’ They don’t want to take the time and stop to have to do this until someone comes up behind them and gives them a shove.”
Maybe getting a check for $21,250 for what amounts to good recordkeeping, a few mouse clicks and finding a dedicated partner will be enough for the reluctant.