If you are an oral healthcare professional you have probably already heard about the Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive program being offered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). You may also wonder how your office can benefit from the incentive. Unfortunately for dentists, the news is not as good as it should be.
Before we get into what it means for you, you need to know the basics of the incentive program. It is intended to motivate healthcare providers to adopt software that create and manage EHRs. To qualify for a Medicaid EHR incentive payment, 30% of your patient encounters in any continuous 90-day period from the prior calendar year must have been covered by Medicaid or be considered “needy” as defined by CMS. You must also be using software that has been certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Then you must certify that you have achieved “meaningful use” of that software according to a variety of core objectives as defined by CMS in the succeeding five years of the incentive program.
The challenge is that many of the core meaningful use objectives don’t apply to oral healthcare providers, making it very difficult for you to participate in the program. For instance, if you have a patient with diabetes, the program requires you to be able to electronically track this condition as well as the patient’s diabetes medications. While you could state “unknown” in fields related to such medical conditions and still meet the meaningful use criteria, your dental practice management system will still have to be able to record a patient’s full medical history (not just oral health history) in order to be certified.
This presents a very high hurdle for dental software vendors who must add a great deal of functionality to their software that dentists don’t need and won’t use, just to receive certification. It is true that dental practice management software can receive modular certification. This, however, does not fully solve the problem as you must still have access to and use other software that together meet all 15 core objectives and measures.
To remedy this problem, we at Henry Schein Practice Solutions are working with several groups, including the ADA, CMS, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), National Network for Oral Health Access (NNOHA) and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), to highlight the need for a certification standard specifically for electronic dental records (EDRs) that will make the program more accessible to oral health professionals. We are developing a list of oral health measures to submit to CMS with a request that they be included in the definitions of meaningful use.
To learn more about the EHR incentive program or our efforts to make it more accessible for dentists, visit us online.