Physicians in Massachusetts lag behind in their adoption of new systems such as electronic health records, thus endangering their licenses. If concessions are not made Medicaid and Medicare penalties may be on the horizon for these physicians.

New Physician Mandates

New EMR Mandate: By 2015, thousands of Massachusetts physicians could lose their licenses. As the national healthcare system begins to adopt more technology, it has become increasingly important for physicians to be competent in the new systems, such as electronic health records. The Massachusetts’ Chapter 224 of 2012 mandates that all physicians must be trained and proficient in these technological advancements in order to maintain their licenses in 2015.

Electronic health records can be extremely beneficial to a practice. They can increase profits, secure medical history, and provide the patient with accurate and quality healthcare. However, at this time, many physicians haven’t met the EHR proficiency standard. Massachusetts requires that physicians meet the level of proficiency spelled out in the Meaningful Use requirements set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Based on an estimate made by the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, over half of the licensed physicians in Massachusetts are eligible to meet these standards.

This past month, representatives in the state House clarified the requirement, stating that practicing physicians would not be required to use the technology. They would merely be required to prove their competency with it. However, this clarification was not included in the budget bill and it has been moved into the conference committee.

Regrettably, these physician requirements come with some drawbacks. Requiring proficiency in EHR increases administrative demands and places a greater financial burden on the healthcare system as a whole. Many smaller practices worry that they will lose patients to larger practices who have fulfilled the requirements. It is a common complaint among physicians that politicians are failing to see the real problem. While EHRs are important, they are not worth putting a patient at risk. Adding administrative stress could distract physicians from their patients, creating a risk to their health and safety.

As the nation moves towards adopting this technology, providers who fail to comply with the new laws and regulations may have to pay the price. Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement penalties are expected to begin in 2016.

Regardless of rewards or consequences, providers in Massachusetts and across the country are going to have to adapt to the changing healthcare environment in order to continue practicing medicine.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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