Don't wait until next year to implement EMR, Leavitt warns

Physician practices and hospitals that have yet to select or implement an EMR system should get a move on. Those who wait until next year will face a "high risk" of failing to achieve "meaningful use" of health IT in time for the 2011-12 federal incentives, Mark Leavitt, chairman of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, warned at the annual AHIMA conference on Monday in Grapevine, Texas.

"You're dreaming if you think you can achieve it in less than a year," Leavitt said, referring to hospitals. Achieving meaningful use of an EMR system will take at least 18 months, if not two years, he warned.

HHS expects to publish its criteria for certification of EMRs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as its definition of "‘meaningful use" for qualifying for ARRA Incentives, by the end of the year. Both measures should be finalized by spring 2010 after a public comment period. All told, the federal government will pony up $34 billion in incentives for meaningful use of certified EMR technology--the equivalent of what the U.S. spent to send the first man to the moon, Leavitt said.