HITECH Act and Dentists’ Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records

Hi everybody,

This is my first blog and I would like to talk about the HITECH Act and how dentists may qualify to receive incentives for demonstrating meaningful use of electronic health records. In February 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act set aside up to $29 billion over 10 years to promote the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records. The Act was enacted on the belief that the HIT has potential to improve the quality, safety, efficiency of the patient care, and the major barriers to HIT adoption could be overcome with federal government assistance. More than two years have passed since the enactment of this historic program and it is reported that the percentage of US primary care physicians with at least a basic Electronic Health Records (EHR) increased from 20 to 39 percent between 2009 and 2011. In addition, 3880 providers have attested to meaningful use of EHRs under Medicare and received about $357 million as incentives. Another 6767 providers received more than $514 million from the state Medicaid programs, which do not require attesting to meaningful use in the first year. These reports illustrate the early successes of the HITECH Act and its potential to reshape the US healthcare system.

Now, how about dentists? Yes, dentists are considered eligible professionals to receive incentives up to $63,750 for the adoption and meaningful use of EHRs if they meet certain requirements. At least 30 percent of their patient volume should have received Medicaid assistance in a 90-day continuous period and they should start using a certified Electronic Health Record. The list of certified dental Electronic Health Records are available at http://onc-chpl.force.com/ehrcert. While most certified EHRs are for physicians, there are a few certified dental EHRs such as axiUm CE (version 5.10) and MacPracticeDDS (version 4.1). Once you have the certified EHR, you must demonstrate and report meaningful use of the EHR.

There are 25 defined meaningful use objectives. An eligible dentist will be required to meet 15 core objectives and at least five other measures from a list of 10. The complete list and explanations are available on the CMS website. While these objectives may look exhaustive, the CMS and ONC have taken steps to ensure the dentists are also able to meet these objectives. Keep in mind that these are only Stage 1 measures and there will be additional Stages 2 and 3 measures in 2013. If all these requirements are met, dentists will receive up to $ 63,750 over a period of six years with the first installment being $21,250. Stage 1 of meaningful use lasts through 2012 and the program as a whole extends through 2018 for Medicare and through 2021 for Medicaid.

Looking forward to your comments and thoughts,



Thankam Thyvalikakath DMD, MDS, MS

Assistant Professor, Center for Dental Informatics