Massachusetts Physicians Who Don't Meet Meaningful Use EHR Criteria Could Lose Their Medical Licenses in 2015

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Effective January 2015, Massachusetts physicians who wish to renew their licenses must demonstrate that they utilize electronic health records (EHRs) that meet the requirements of the federal government's meaningful use program.  The purpose of the law was to improve the quality of healthcare provided to patients by Massachusetts doctors while reducing costs.  However, the law had unintended consequences.  It is estimated that as many as 10,000 physicians could lose their license under the requirement because those physicians are not eligible for the federal meaningful use program.  The Massachusetts Medical Society and Massachusetts physicians have been advocating for a change in the law within the government.


Wording of the Current Law.

The original state law mandating that physicians use EHRs by 2015 was passed in 2012. The relevant law is Section 108 of Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012, which reads:

The first paragraph of section 2 of chapter 112 of the General Laws . . . is hereby amended     by inserting (the following) . . . The board (of Registration in Medicine) shall require, as a standard of eligibility for (medical) licensure, that applicants demonstrate proficiency in the use of computerized physician order entry, e- prescribing, electronic health records and other forms of health information technology, as determined by the board. As used in this section, proficiency, at a minimum shall mean that applicants demonstrate the skills to comply with the “meaningful use” requirements (1).

To read the entire law, click here.


House Approved Changes to Physician EHR Requirement.


On February 12, 2014, the Massachusetts House approved changes that would allow physicians to demonstrate their use of EHRs that was not totally dependent on physicians meeting the federal meaningful use requirements.  The revised language voted on by the House requires participating physicians to demonstrate that they use "digitized patient-specific clinical information."  Practicing physicians who do not use digitized health records would be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they know how to use such records, by a method to be determined by the Board of Registration in Medicine.  However, the Massachusetts Senate's supplemental bill did not contain the updated language, so the matter now heads to a conference committee.

Click here to read more from the Massachusetts Medical Society
.


Effect of Law on Doctors.

Doctor Howard Zwerling, a Massachusetts physician and president of an EHR vendor, has been an outspoken opponent of the law.  He voiced his concerns with the law in a blog post on The Health Care Blog.  Dr. Zwerling stated this law places politicians in the middle of the exam room between the physician and the patient.

He also mentioned if the current law goes into effect, two-thirds of the state's physicians would not be able to be licensed.  A large percentage of Massachusetts physicians are not eligible to register for the meaningful use program.  Either they are surgeons or other hospitals-based specialists such as radiologists or pathologists, who are excluded from the program, or they're pediatricians who don't have enough Medicaid patients in their practices to qualify for government incentives.  The impact of losing all those physicians would be devastating to the Massachusetts health care system.

To read Dr. Zwerling's blog, click here.

Most likely, other states will also seek to include requirements that physicians be able to use EHRs in their licensing statutes.


Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians and medical groups on EHR issues. It also represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Comments?

What do you think of the Massachusetts law punishing physicians that don't meet meaningful use EHR criteria? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Sources:

Massachusetts Medical Society. "House Approves Critically Needed Changes to Physician EHR Requirement." Massachusetts Medical Society Blog. (February 13, 2014). From: http://blog.massmed.org/index.php/2014/02/house-approves-critically-needed-changes-to-physician-ehr-requirement/

Zwerling, M.D., Hayward. "The EHR Use Rule: An Open Letter to Massachusetts Physicians." The Health Care Blog. (May 27, 2013). From: http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2013/05/27/an-open-letter-to-massachusetts-physicians/


About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.


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