As the deadline for “Meaningful Use” approaches, doctors are rushing to adopt the Program to avail government incentives. However, as we speak to doctors, we realize that many of them are confused about the Program, which makes it difficult for them to earn maximum incentives. The confusion surrounds the requirements, incentives, penalties, exemptions and deadlines of the program.

In an effort to clear up the problems, the Meaningful Use Team at CureMD conducted a telephonic interview with an industry expert, William J. O’Byrne, Executive Director of the New Jersey Health Information Technology Extension Center (NJ-HITEC), joined by the organization’s Meaningful Use Specialist, Arixmar Velez.Bill

Mr. O’Byrne is leading the health information evolution by assisting more than 5,000 New Jersey’s medical providers in the transition from paper records to the Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

The interview covered a wide range of questions regarding a physician’s eligibility for Meaningful Use Stages 1 and 2, the penalties, incentives, hardship exemption and EHR software certification.

CureMD: What happens if a doctor does not attest for Meaningful Use program this year?

O’Byrne:  2014 is the last year to start the MU program. If a Medicare provider does not meaningfully use a CCHIT certified EHR this year, they will not only lose out on government incentives but also incur a penalty in 2015.

This penalty is in the form of reduction being made to their Medicare Part B reimbursement payment. In 2015, this reduction will start increasing 1% every year until it reaches 5%.

CureMD: Could you tell us about the reporting period for physicians who have started their Meaningful Use program in 2013 and those who started this year?

Velez: Once physicians start the Meaningful Use program, there is always a 90‐day period. The rule in 2014 is that doctors would have to report for 90‐day quarter. So, it’s still a three month period, but now a 90‐day quarter.

CureMD: What happens if the doctors don’t attest for a 90-day period before October 1, 2014?

Velez: The October 1 deadline is for new professionals entering the Meaningful Use program. But October 1 is not the concern right now because there is another July 1 deadline as well for the hardship exemption for 2015 payment adjustment.

CureMD: What is Hardship Exemption and who does it apply to?

Velez: We are encouraging everyone that there is a July 1, 2014 deadline for the 2015 payment adjustments. So, if eligible professionals have not used Meaningful Use program in 2013, are new to the program and will not be eligible by October 1 deadline, they are required to fill the hardship exemption form.

CureMD: If a doctor starts the Meaningful Use program this year, how much incentives he/she will earn?

Velez: If Medicare professionals start Meaningful Use program this year, then they can expect to earn over $22,000 over the period of next four years.

CureMD: If a doctor does not start by July, 1 2014, will he or she be incurring penalty in 2015?

Velez: If the doctor does not fill the hardship exemption form during the 90-day period, he or she will be subject to penalties.

CureMD: If a physician has a 2011 certified EHR software, will he or she still be able to attest for Meaningful Use Stage 2 this year?

Velez: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has said that only certified products that meet the 2014 criteria can be used to attest for Meaningful Use Stage 2. Doctors are advised to get 2014 certified version, as it will be mandatory in 2015.

CureMD strongly suggests you start the Meaningful Use program by July 1, 2014 if you haven’t done it already in order to avail government incentives and avoid penalties in 2015.

You can download the complete transcript of the interview in text or audio format.

This article was originally published at MedCityNews.