Athenahealth Inc. is putting down a marker for doctors who sign up for its electronic medical records service: A guarantee that they’ll receive their fair share of up to $44,000 in Medicare payments for proving “meaningful use” of EMRs.
That’s a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designed to push the digitization of medical records. Doctors’ offices that demonstrate as-yet-undefined “meaningful use” of EMR technology starting in 2011 will be eligible for the payments.
Watertown, Mass.-based Athenahealth’s said it will guarantee that doctors who sign up for its web-based EMR service will see their ARRA cash. Communications director John Hallock told MassDevice that the company will handle the back-end workflow documentation, submit it to the government, collect the payment and remit it to participating physicians.
And if the check is not forthcoming, Hallock told us, the docs will get the service free for up to six months or until the check comes through.
“The reason we did this is that the onus to be meaningful, whatever that ends up being, is still on the doctors. What we’re saying is, ‘If you sign up between now and January 2011, we are going to help you do the work of enrolling and educating you and your staff,'” he said. “We’re going to do the handholding that’s required for these doctors to map their workflow, document it and collect the check for them.”
Athenahealth said it expects to post a charge to its balance sheet when physicians sign up under the guarantee program, which will be reversed when and if the bonus payments begin.
Hallock said the move is, in part, a challenge to other EMR providers, especially those offering software-based solutions that require doctors to install the programs, manage them and demonstrate their use to the government.
“This is the kind of initiative that has to happen so that physicians can start to really make more informed decisions on what exactly they’re really buying,” he said. “Web-based technologies are prominent every other sector. To think it’s not going play a role in healthcare is a bit shortsighted.”
Athenahealth posted $3 million in second-quarter profits on about $47 million in sales, compared to earnings of $2.8 million on $33 million in sales during the same period last year.