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One EHR vendor will guarantee that you'll get incentive money

Photo by Grant HuangMost electronic health record (EHR) vendors have a meaningful use "guarantee" -- but the fine print usually specifies that their EHR product has the capability to meet meaningful use and earn you incentive money, if you do your part. But athenahealth (the company name is deliberately lower case, for whatever reason) is trying to stand apart from the pack by offering a more substantive meaningful use guarantee.

Don't get too excited -- athenahealth isn't going to pay your doctors $44,000 apiece if they sign up for the company's EHR but fail to meet meaningful use. Instead, client physicians who don't get the EHR incentive bonus the first year they try will not be charged for athenahealth's monthly EHR service fees. This fee waiver is good for a maximum of six months.

"We are so confident that we can help you get Medicare payments for 'meaningful use of an EHR' through the HITECH Act incentive program that we guarantee that you will get your payment in the first year," boasts an athenahealth PDF brochure.

In other blurbs on the athenahealth website, the company claims that they are "unique in the industry for guaranteeing federal Meaningful Use incentive payments, not just Meaningful Use certification." While their fee waiver offer appears rare, if not unique in the industry, it is nowhere near a promise of $44,000 for using their EHR but failing to meet meaningful use.

Just how much money is six months of waived EHR fees worth from athenahealth? Despite a most dogged and thorough search of the athenahealth website, no hint of a dollar figure or even ballpark estimate of costs could be found. Like many EHR vendors, it seems athenahealth's pricing information is available only by calling a sales rep.

The market penetration of athenahealth's EHR system doesn't appear stellar, according to a recent nationwide survey by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). About 1.8% of respondents say they use an athenahealth EHR, compared to 11.4% for NextGen, 8.6% for Centricity by GE, 7.9% for Allscripts and 7.6% for eClinicalWorks. To be fair, the industry is massively fragmented, with 31.3% of survey respondents reporting "other" for their EHR product (the survey had listed 15 top vendors).

For more information, check out this posh marketing video that features athenahealth's top brass explaining their guarantee.

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