EMR Stimulus Question and Answer: What if my EMR Vendor Doesn’t Certify?

Pamela sent me the following EMR stimulus question in response to my post about Doctor’s having no choice with meaningful use:

Can we show meaningful use without a certified EMR or would we still be penalized since our EMR vendor has no intention on becoming certified?

The current HITECH law requires meaningful use of a certified EHR. So, you have to use a certified EHR to get the EMR stimulus money and to avoid the Medicare penalties. They have been looking at doing site certifications so you could show that you’ve put together everything to satisfy the certified EHR portion. However, so far I’ve only seen the site certification really apply to hospitals. I haven’t seen a site certification for smaller doctors offices (yet?).

Just be aware that some are suggesting that the penalties will never be imposed. Basically, they say that ONC will just keep delaying those penalties for one reason or another and that they’ll never actually be enforced. Plus, don’t be surprised if they make exceptions for certain medical specialties. For example, if not a single chiropractor (or some small number) shows meaningful use of a certified EHR, then it seems reasonable that ONC could look at making an exception for those specialty groups.

It’s also worth taking a look at this post I did which gave an example of the EMR stimulus Medicare penalties. They don’t amount to as much as you’d think.

I imagine we’ll see quite a few faced with this situation. This will become even bigger when some EMR vendors decide to deal with meaningful use stage 1, but choose not to prepare for meaningful use stage 2. Allscripts will be doing this with their now sunsetted EMR acquisition, Peak Practice. Basically, they’re going to make it work for meaningful use stage 1, but then users will have to switch to a different Allscripts EMR for meaningful use stage 2. That will make for a tough decision for someone who has to switch EMR software to get more stimulus money and avoid the penalties.

I have a strong feeling that EMR and HIPAA is going to make a switch from talking about selecting and implementing EMR to switching EMR software over the next 5 or so years. Not a fun subject for providers to consider, but many are actually doing it now.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, 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, EXPO.health, 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.


  • I can already tell you about switching EMR software. It’s not fun when you are doing it to get away from a bad product, which is probably a pretty (the most?) common reason to do so. Was that what you had in mind?

  • First time poster, long time lurker here. I love this blog! Was wondering if you have any insight on exactly HOW money will be reimbursed by the stimulus. Do providers need to save all receipts and send the federal government an “expense report”, OR will the government just issue a “flat rate” check if the EMR is certified and Meaningful Use is met? Thank you in advance.

  • Michael,
    Yep, that is the most common reason for switching. Although other common reasons for switching EMR software are things like: vendor acquisition, sunsetted software, clinic acquisition (2 different EMR systems), etc.

    It’s not fun. The only consolation seems to be that people who move from one system (that they hate) usually do better with their second pick. Although, I’ve known a few that it took 3 tries…Ugh!

  • Steve,
    Glad to have you lurking and posting. Lurkers are welcome.

    The money will be paid as Medicare bonuses. There’s no stipulation on what you use the money on, so no receipt collection or anything like that. In fact, the free EMR vendors out there are touting the idea that you can use their EMR for free and keep all the EMR stimulus money.

    Under Medicaid it’s a little bit different and will likely be decided on a state by state basis. If I remember right, the Medicaid EMR stimulus money says for “qualified expenses” or something like that. I haven’t seen many details on what “qualifies” but plenty of speculation.

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