Do the math: Stanford docs could earn $44M in EMR incentives, while children's hospitals chase Medicaid dollars

As usual, there's a burgeoning trend in technology and people in Northern California smell the money. "The push to implement electronic healthcare records could mean hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into Silicon Valley," notes the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.

This time, though, the money won't necessarily be going to all the high-tech companies that call the Bay Area home. At least not directly, and that's where the math gets a little fuzzy. The Business Journal is referring to the federal stimulus dollars in the form of Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for achieving "meaningful use" of EMRs, and as we've often reported, that cash may not add to a provider's top line, just help offset some of the cost for the technology.

Still, the numbers appear staggering when extrapolated across a large organization. Stanford Hospital and Clinics CMIO Dr. Pravene Nath estimates that as many as 1,000 affiliated physicians could qualify for the extra reimbursements. At up to $44,000 per doctor, meaningful use could be worth as much as $44 million to Stanford physicians. And that doesn't even include the hospital's potential bonus of several million dollars. "We don't yet know the exact amount the hospital could receive, but it's enough money that it's a huge incentive for us," Nath is quoted as saying. "We absolutely intend to get it."

We then run into yet another case of the non-healthcare media misunderstanding what's truly going on when the Business Journal reporter brings up Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, which is a Stanford facility. Pediatric providers, of course, don't do a whole lot of Medicare business. "To address this problem, the federal government added a provision that allows hospitals such as Children's Hospital to qualify if they demonstrate "meaningful use" of EHRs," the publication erroneously reports.

"At Children's Hospital, digitizing records and processes already has an impact on patient care. A system that allows physicians to make orders digitally was correlated with a 20 percent decrease in mortality rates at the hospital over an 18-month period," the story says.

Meaningful use, as FierceEMR readers are keenly aware, applies to anyone seeking American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (not "Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act," as the Business Journal says) bonuses for EMR/EHR implementation. The difference for pediatric facilities is that their threshold for qualifying for Medicaid incentives is lower--they need 20 percent of their patients to be on Medicaid, vs. 30 percent for adult and general provider organizations. Either way, quality improvement matters.

The education process continues.

To read more--and do so at your own peril:
- see this story from the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal (subscription req.)