This guest post was written for Idealware by Jennifer Amanda Jones, who has a Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership and more than a decade’s experience with nonprofits including health, economic development, and educational 501(c)3s of all sizes. She currently consults to nonprofits, specializing in social media policies. For more information, visit http://jenniferamandajones.com/.

Many nonprofit health care organizations are scrambling to meet the Electronic Health Records (EHR) requirements established by the Obama Administration. In the process, they are spending large amounts of money and, by nature of the change, revamping core elements of their practice. Some smaller nonprofits, weary of high costs, are hoping their size will offer an exemption. No such luck.

It appears that any organization that wishes to receive or continue to receive federal funds for providing health care services must use EHR and, to add an additional layer of complexity, in order to receive full payments, they must demonstrate what is called “meaningful use.”

While the exact description of what qualifies as meaningful use varies depending on the types of services provided, it is somewhat revealing to know  that for each meaningful use objective the government has outlined its definition, any related terms, offered an explanation of how to qualify for an exclusion and even explained how to calculate it.

This means that before you transition to EHR, you know exactly how your organization will be expected to measure success.

Before you Transition

In addition to the hard costs of hardware, software, training, scanning hard copy records, and more, the transition can have unintended consequences. Providers may resist the conversion and quit. HIPAA privacy policies must be revisited; and, because of the digital breadcrumbs, breaches in privacy are more likely to be identified and attributable. Staffing needs shift from low-skilled file clerks to higher skilled Information Technology staff.

Funding is one of the top concerns for nonprofits. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services offer an EHR Incentive Program that provides incentive payments to eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) as they make the digital transition. These payments can range from $44,000 for eligible professionals to more than $2,000,000 for eligible hospitals for Medicare and $63,750 and more than $2,000,000 respectively for Medicaid providers. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health also offers transition funding.

A second major concern is selecting software. The federal government has listed a number of certified programs which are required for those participating in the EHR Incentive Program. Take note. By virtue of the government’s endorsement, these programs will most likely also be the programs most utilized by other nonprofit health care providers.

Resources

There are a number of resources available to nonprofits in this process. Here are a few which might be of particular interest.

If you are a nonprofit struggling to begin the daunting digital conversion, take comfort. We have watched many organizations transition and, while there are always bumps in the road, the process often yields a much higher quality of patient care and staff satisfaction.