Myth: EHR Stimulus Bill Requires Doctors to Use EHR and Be Interoperable

There are a bunch of myths being perpetuated right now around ARRA and the HITECH act. I’ve been on a number of conference calls and read a number of people perpetuating these myths. Some might call it poor communication and others might call it downright unethical talk. I’ll leave any judgment to someone else, but I believe these myths could lead to major problems in HIT.

Here’s the first myth I’d like to debunk here and now:
Myth: The EHR Stimulus bill (often referred to as ARRA or the HITECH Act) REQUIRES doctors to use EHR and be interoperable.

Reality: The government has no ability to actually require the use on an EHR. ARRA and the HITECH act do require you to use a certified EHR and show “meaningful use” IF (that’s a big IF) you want to receive the potential $44k in stimulus money avoid the 1-5% medicare/medicaid penalties that will go in force a few years down the road.

That means that if you’re not interested in the government stimulus money then you’ll need an EHR. However, I have a feeling that a large number of people are going to sit back and take the penalties and forget about the stimulus money. In fact, don’t be surprised if many just stop taking medicare/medicaid in response. The point being that it’s a requirement to get money, but not a legal requirement that a doctor use an EHR. I have a feeling those not using an EHR will still have lots of company for the forseeable future.

The interoperability falls under the same story. However, you may not even have to have an interoperable EHR at all if interoperability isn’t part of the EHR certification and “meaningful use” requirements. That part we’ll just have to wait and see.

Moral of the Story: Select an EHR because it makes sense for you and your practice. Don’t focus on the stimulus money and you’ll be much happier in the end.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Is anyone thinking about the network? EHR systems will be most effective only if practices are connected to a secure network where interoperability can occur.

  • A lot of people are thinking about the network. However, what compelling reasons should doctors want for interoperability? I’m not saying there’s not benefits to interoperability. There’s some tremendous things that can be done with interoperability. I just don’t see many compelling reasons for doctors to care much about interoperability. I’d love to see someone make the case for why doctors should worry about interoperability.

    Also, look forward to a post in the next day or two with more of my thoughts on the possibilities of interoperability.

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