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    Uncertainty slows physician investments in EHRs

    Federal regulations, financial incentives and reimbursements under former President Barack Obama drove wide-scale adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems and other technology within the healthcare industry.

    But federal mandates on EHRs soon could be gone.

    It’s no secret, of course, that President Donald Trump plans to take the government, including its healthcare policies, in a different direction, prompting many questions about which existing and proposed health IT regulations will stay, which will go and which will be modified.

    “It’s such an uncertain time, and physicians are asking, ‘What do we do now with everything in flux?’” said Robert M. Tennant, MA, director of health information technology policy at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

    While the MGMA, other healthcare leaders and medical providers await news regarding the future of existing rules and requirements along potential new mandates and directives from the Trump administration, Tennant said physicians might want to retreat from investing in new EHRs or big-ticket EHR upgrades if there’s no return on investment  beyond meeting federal regulations.

    But he also said physicians shouldn’t freeze their planning activities on this front while they’re waiting for Washington, D.C., to work out the next steps.

    Instead, he’s advising physicians to develop their plans for IT investments in conjunction with EHR vendors now, so they can move when future requirements become clearer.

    “The first thing I’d recommend is that the practice develop a set of questions that they should ask their existing EHR vendor,” he said, explaining that physicians should inquire whether their vendor will be upgrading its software to the so-called 2015 Certification Rules for Meaningful Use (which for now still remain in place with a 2018 deadline), how much the upgrade if available will cost the practice, whether the vendor will offer training for the upgrade, and whether the upgrade will require hardware upgrades.

    “I’d say prepare with the questions, but don’t spend the money yet,” Tennant said. “You want to arm yourself with all the important information, so once things are more decided in Washington, you can pull the trigger and decide if you’re going to upgrade or not.”

    Next: Continuing the health IT momentum

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