Rural Kansas doc becomes perhaps nation's first certified EHR user

Dr. Jen Brull of Plainville had her paperwork work in early the first day possible

0 | Health Care Delivery, HIE-HIT

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Dr. Jennifer Brull of Plainville Medical Clinic visits with patients Kay and Walt Casner.

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— Dr. Jen Brull, a family practice physician in the tiny western Kansas town of Plainville has become what is thought to be the first physician in Kansas — if not in the country — to be federally certified for using electronic health records.

Being certified for "meaningful use" of EHRs by the federal Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology qualifies Brull for up to $44,000 in Medicare-based incentives over five years and $63,750 over six years through Medicaid.

"Achieving meaningful use was a natural extension of the benefits I have already seen after implementing an EHR three years ago," Brull said. "My patients receive better care, my practice has grown financially and I am personally more satisfied since converting to electronic medical records."

Brull, also president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, has been a leading champion of electronic health records and with the academy and the state's medical societies also is part of a three-year campaign to promote the medical home concept, which supporters say will be advanced by widespread adoption of digital medical records.

Michael Aldridge — director of the Kansas Regional Extension Center, which advises providers on converting to EHRs — said Brull was certified by 9 a.m. April 18, the first day anyone could attest.

Commonly used acronyms

EHRs, or EMRs — Electronic Health Records, or Electronic Medical Records: Digital medical files. Like the traditional paper files they replace, they're also stored locally with a patient's provider(s), and potentially exchanged across networks. Some providers will select EHR systems that store files on in-house servers, while others will chose systems that store the files remotely on the software vendor's servers.

RECRegional Extension Center: The state's support service for helping providers select new EHR systems, or use their current systems, to achieve meaningful use.

Meaningful Use, or MU — Criteria set by the ONC defining standards for EHR technology. Providers whose patient mix includes at least 30 percent Medicaid beneficiaries are eligible for up to $63,750 over six years if their EHR system meets MU criteria, sometimes called "ONC certified."

ONCOffice of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology: The federal agency coordinating state-based efforts to implement health information technology (HIT). Responsible for certifying "meaningful use."

"We thought this was pretty exciting news. As federal dollars start flowing into Kansas, we think it's going to help everyone and convince doctors that...yes, the money's coming," Aldridge said.

He said Brull should receive her first $18,000 Medicare-based payment sometime this month.

Doctors won't be able to claim Medicaid-based payments until the state Medicaid HIT plan is up and running. That is not expected until fall, or possibly later. State officials have said doctors will be able to apply for this year's Medicaid-based incentives to be paid retroactively, if necessary.

Aldridge said of the 600 some doctors that the extension center works with, he expects 100 or so to be certified for meaningful use this year through Medicare. There are 7,910 physicians in the state.

This is the first year doctors are eligible for incentives. The incentive dollars were authorized as part of the 2009 economic stimulus also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The stimulus bill included nearly $20 billion for health information technology initiatives, including the incentive payments to doctors and other providers. The federal government's goal is for every American to have an electronic health record by 2014. Another stimulus initiative called for creation of state or regional health information exchanges — such as the The Kansas Health Information Network — intended to facilitate the digital transfer of patient health records and other data from one provider to another regardless where they are physically located.

Physicians interested in comparing various EHR software can attend a free Educational Summit and Vendor Fair scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 25 at the DoubleTree at Corporate Woods in Overland Park (map). Most of the REC's eight recommended software vendors are expected to attend.