'Meaningful use' funds must be claimed by Dec. 31

Under the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, participating Denti-Cal providers may receive up to $63,750 in incentive payments for implementing an electronic health record system and eventually achieving “meaningful use.” These incentives, which are paid by the state of California, are limited to dentists whose practice is at least 30 percent Denti-Cal by patient volume.

According to David T. Ford, executive director of the California Health Information Partnership and Services Organization, “The EHR Incentive Program has been operating since 2010 but, to date, many eligible dentists still have not claimed their incentives.” The program will close to new registrants on Dec. 31 of this year, and any dentist who has not started in the incentive program will lose the opportunity to claim those dollars.

In the first year dentists enroll in the incentive program, they can receive one-third of their total funding ($21,250) through a process known as “adoption, implementation, or upgrade.” AIU does not require that the dentist already have an electronic health record system in place; dentists only need to demonstrate that they have contracted to implement a certified EHR system.

The rest of the incentive dollars will be paid out over the next five years, at a rate of $8,500 per year, if the provider elects to progress through the program. To continue receiving these payments, dentists must demonstrate meaningful use of that system. Meaningful use is a series of quality metrics determined by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and laid out in federal regulation.

For dentists who may qualify and want to take advantage of the incentive, here are next steps:

  1. If you think that your dental practice may qualify, check to see if your National Provider Identifier number appears on the state of California’s prequalification list. Medi-Cal annually surveys its own data to publish this list of providers that it believes meet the 30 percent threshold. If your NPI appears on this list, you are ready to proceed with the program.
  2. If you believe you meet the 30 percent threshold, but your NPI number does not appear on the state of California’s prequalification list, review your billing history to see if any continuous 90-day period in calendar year 2015 or 2016 shows that at least 30 percent of dental claims were billable to Denti-Cal.
  3. If you already have an EHR, you should verify that your system has been certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Only certified systems may be used to claim any incentive dollars. The complete certified product list is available at chpl.healthit.gov/#/search.
  4. Finally, once you are sure you are qualified and have a certified EHR, visit the State Level Registry to register for the EHR Incentive Program.

Any dentist who qualifies for the EHR Incentive Program also qualifies for free technical assistance through the California Technical Assistance Program. Through this program, dentists can get hands-on help working through the whole incentive process — from choosing the right EHR for the dental practice to registering for the incentive program to demonstrating meaningful use.

For information about four Department of Health Care Services-approved CTAP organizations that can help dentists implement EHRs and achieve meaningful use at no cost, visit the DHCS’ California Technical Assistance Program webpage.

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