It’s well documented that receiving incentive payments by demonstrating meaningful use is a difficult process. Although it’s difficult, primary care specialties actually have this opportunity. Other specialties do not.
Physician assistants fall in the latter category, which irks Tricia Marriott, a physician assistant and director of Reimbursement Advocacy for the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).
In an email to SearchHealthIT, Marriott expressed frustration over neglect for this specialty in today’s digital age. She cannot fathom why Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentives are not extended to physician assistants, given their insight into clinical workflow.
“Despite the fact that PAs are not eligible for the EHR incentives in most instances, they are well-suited to shepherd the EHR implementation,” Marriott wrote.”Their clinical knowledge and knowledge of the physician and practice styles are invaluable for creating templates. They are seeing patients and intimately involved in practice workflow. Their insights can be a huge asset to the EHR adoption team, and must be included as part of the implementation process on the road to meaningful use.”
The HITECH Act put incentives in motion to encourage EHR adoption among physicians. However, according to the AAPA, an incorrect assumption was made that an incentive payment to physician assistants would be covered under the payment to physicians. With that in mind, Marriott contends that physician assistants should be able to qualify for incentives if 30% of their patients are on Medicaid. That is the standard for physicians.
Indeed, there are some cases where physician assistants can receive monetary incentives in rural health clinics (RHC) and federally qualified health centers (FQHC). The problem, however, is that “the number of PA-led RHCs and FQHCs out there [is] very few,” said Marriott. As illustrated in the chart below — which was taken from a census of AAPA members — physician assistants are found in a range of practice settings, but they clearly dominate the group physician practice sector.
The case for physician assistants highlights a bigger issue of particular specialties that do not qualify for incentives. It’s not far-fetched to think that more call for action campaigns will arise to amend the HITECH Act.