Physicians Don’t Know About EMR Stimulus Penalties and Don’t Care

The Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI) recently posted the results of a survey they did of 500 physicians regarding Electronic Medical Records (EMR) software and the EMR stimulus money and penalties. Here’s one of their most interesting findings about EMR implementation:

One significant finding was awareness of financial incentives and penalties for implementing EMR systems. While 85 percent of physicians were aware of the financial incentives for implementing the systems, more than 35 percent did not know that they face government-assessed financial penalties for not complying. The penalties are equal to a one percent reduction of the physician’s annual Medicare payments per year up to five percent. However, those penalties do not seem to be having the intended effect, as more than 65 percent of physicians who were unaware of the financial penalties said this would not cause them to implement EMR.

So, most physicians are aware of the financial incentives of implementing an EMR. This was a bit of a surprise for me, but I guess not a HUGE surprise. The more interesting part is the 35% of physicians that didn’t know about the Medicare penalties and that the majority of those people didn’t think that penalties would cause them to implement an EMR.

Does this mean that doctors won’t be implementing EMR? No, I think that we’re going to see a big uptake in EMR adoption over the next two years. One thing the HITECH act and EMR stimulus money has done is increased the awareness of the good and bad of EMR. This increased awareness will be a great thing and will spur EMR adoption.

What this poll shows is that the EMR stimulus is out of touch with what physicians and medical practices think is important. The real driver for EMR adoption won’t be a government handout. The real driver for EMR adoption will be hundreds of doctors implementing EMR software which makes their life easier, increases their reimbursement and solves the physician pain points. EMR vendors that provide these benefits to their users are going to be in a great position going forward since that’s what doctors consider meaningful use.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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.


  • We’ve been playing the Medicare reimbursement game for some time now. The idea is that once they get you chasing a carrot, they move it. No point in trying too hard to meet a moving target. And trust me, it will move.

  • It reminds me of the recent attempt by traffic cops in Cambridge to put yoga signs on tickets as a way to make the citation process more inviting (I guess: it’s still not clear to me what the purpose is): I also don’t think the penalties will actually encourage adoption as much as success in the user community will. Imagine if a company tried to incentive social media use that way amongst its employees: bonuses for those who tweeted more, demotions for those without a complete profile. You’d get some kind of results, but I’m not sure they’d be the ones you want.

  • John and company, I do agree that the Medicare penalities doesn’t seem to add up to much but I think we have to keep in mind the kind of margins small practices have. Several thousands of dollars can mean something. I think the greater cost/penalty based motiviation is related to what both the private and public payers will do to the providers. There are already major things happening. I just heard a presentation from ONC where one of the State told their providers that to practice in the state, you have to be Meaningful User by 2013! Just wait till the private payers get going. I think it’s important that physicians consider more than just what they see right now when thinking about what to do with EHR.

  • David,
    You are correct that the private payers decisions will be of much greater impact. There’s also some suggestion that medical licenses could somehow be tied to EMR use.

    These are both movements that need to be watched and would definitely impact a provider’s choice to use EMR or not.

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