General Electric Co. will be combining its financial and information technology resources to get a jump on what the federal government hopes will be a mass migration by healthcare providers toward adoption of electronic health-record systems through some $34 billion in financial incentives andif those don't work, financial penaltiesunder the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate announced today its GE Capital division will provide financing for the purchase of EHRs in advance of the 2011 "payment year" under the economic stimulus law while its GE Healthcare unit will add a "warranty" that its products will meet government certification requirements under the new law that went into effect in February. The financing is part of a marketing campaign GE announced in May.
To qualify for EHR payments under the stimulus law, providers must deploy certified EHRs in a way that meets a standard of "meaningful use." Neither the certification criteria nor the standard of meaningful use are, as yet, fully defined, so a level of uncertainty in the IT market remains, which GE, in part, attempts to address with this combined offering.
The company will provide zero-interest financing for its systems until the 2011 payments kick in, according to Vishal Wanchoo, president and CEO of GE Healthcare information technology. It also will guarantee that its systems will meet whatever certification criteria the government dishes out, according to Wanchoo. It will not guarantee "meaningful use" by the provider, however.
In 2006, the government granted waivers from federal Stark and anti-kickback laws for providers subsidizing EHRs to their affiliated physicians if they were providing EHRs that had been certified within the past 12 months. Wanchoo said that he hears the government now is leaning toward requiring a two-year certification cycle for stimulus act payments.
"I think a two-year window is easier on the vendors," Wanchoo said, but if the government requires one-year recertification in alignment with the Stark and anti-kickback waivers, GE will devote the resources to achieve that as well.