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Your dental practice can receive $63,250 from the government for using an electronic health record

I heard of some dentists receiving government grant money just for using an electronic health record and thought - we use Dentrix, we send e-claims - that counts, so how can my practice receive this money? This sounded like an urban myth (thar's gold in them there hills) to me, so I did some digging at the Dentrix Business of Dentistry Conference. Here's what I discovered:

It's true

Yes, the government really is giving dentists money for using electronic records. This 'Electronic Health Record Incentive Program' was created under the HITECH act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act our government passed in 2009. This program is real and is designed to reward dentists who are using a certified electronic health record in a meaningful manner - hence the name, "Meaningful Use." Dentists have already received their first year payments through this program.

It's complicated

Shocker, huh? There are many hoops to jump through with passwords and forms and ID numbers. There are two paths under this program - one for Medicare and one for Medicaid. A few specialty dentists may quality for the Medicare side, but most dentists have a better chance on the Medicaid side.

Beyond the two paths, there are 3 stages of Meaningful Use adoption. We are in the first stage now (released in 2010) which asks dentists to acquire, implement or upgrade to certified software. For this first stage, there are two major requirements to qualify:
1. 30% of your patients must be on Medicaid for at least 90 days
2. Only certain software programs count as a certified electronic health record. Not one of the well-known (or even lesser known) dental practice management software companies has been approved. Instead, you must purchase an approved access software in order to qualify. Henry Schein has several products that qualify.

It's a multi-year process

The government funds are available over several years. Right now practices that qualify can receive $21,250 in first year grant money. Stage one year two requires dentists to meaningfully use their electronic health record for 90 days in a row and the incentive payment is $8,500. Stage one year three requires dentists to meaningfully use their electronic health record for a full year for another incentive payment of $8,500.  Guidelines are still being created for future years but the total potential payment for a dentist over 6 years is $63,750 through this incentive program.

So, what's your first step?
Contact your existing dental practice management software company to ask how they can help you to meet the EHR criteria. Schein and Dentrix recently released that their Meaningful Use access software has been approved for first year funding. Their website on this program is: http://www.dentrix.com/ehr/.

If your practice is already treating 30% Medicaid patients and you're willing to invest the time going through the paperwork process, you may want to investigate the Meaningful Use program. It would be nice to see dentists who are doing right, also do well.

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