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Dentists and meaningful use

It may be time for dentists to sink their teeth into meaningful use.

Dentists, while theoretically eligible for the federal EHR incentive program, have for the most part stayed away because there were no penalties for not participating and many low-cost dental EHR programs are available that do not qualify as federally certified health IT.

That could be changing now.

The American Dental Association officially says that for most dentists there is no deadline to take part in meaningful use. However, this year Medicare and Medicaid-eligible dentists who have not adopted EHRs and attested to meaningful use will receive for the first time a 1% Medicare or Medicaid payment reduction, according to a post on the Dentistry IQ website by a healthcare compliance consultant.

That penalty will increase each year that eligible dentists (those whose Medicare or Medicaid patients make up at least a third of their practices) do not attest to meaningful use, up to a maximum of 5%, according to the site.

Dentists are eligible for up to $63,750 per practitioner for adopting EHRs and demonstrating meaningful use, but only a small fraction of dentists have opted in, according to RangerNetworks, a Texas dental EHR vendor.

By comparison, 96% of hospitals and 56% of office-based physicians have demonstrated meaningful use of EHRs, according to ONC.

Meanwhile, costs for dental EHRs range from $15,000 to $70,000, plus time and effort to install the systems and attest to meaningful use.

Still, Christine Queally Foisey, the Dentistry IQ article author and president and CEO of consulting firm MedSafe, lists these benefits for dentists who digitize their practices:

  • Improved quality and patient safety
  • Reduced paperwork and storage issues
  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • E-prescribing capability
  • More efficient billing and improved reimbursement
  • Increased accuracy