EHR Incentive Programs Have Paid Over 100,000 Health Care Providers

More than 100,000 health care providers are using electronic health records (EHR) that meet federal standards and have benefitted from the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs, according to an announcement by CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The announcement came only three months after the goal of getting 100,000 health care providers to adopt or meaningfully use EHRs by the end of 2012 was proposed by CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, M.D., Sc.M. 

 The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which were established by the Health Information for Clinical and Economic Health Act of 2009 (HITECH Act) and began in 2011, provide incentive payments for using EHR technology in meaningful ways that lead to higher quality care, improved patient safety, and shared decision making by patients and physicians. Under the EHR Incentive Programs, eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals (EHs) and critical access hospitals (CAHs) can receive support and financial incentives for implementing and meaningfully using certified EHR technology. Eligible professionals include physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and some physician assistants.

 As of the end of May 2012, over $5.7 billion in EHR Incentive Program payments were made, CMS and ONC stated. More than $3 billion in Medicare EHR Incentive Program payments were made between May 2011 (when the first payments were released) and the end of May 2012; while more than $2.6 billion in Medicaid EHR Incentive Program payments were made between January 2011 (when the first states launched their programs) and the end of May 2012.  Forty-four states are participating in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program as of May 2012 and CMS expects the remaining states to launch their Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs by the end of 2012.

 CMS and ONC reported that as of the end of May 2012, more than 110,000 eligible professionals and over 2,400 eligible hospitals have been paid by the EHR Incentive Programs. One out of every 5 Medicare and Medicaid eligible professionals has received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR; while approximately 48 percent of all eligible hospitals and CAHs have received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR.

 Dr. Mostashari credits the ONC-sponsored Regional Extension Centers (RECs) and Beacon Communities Programs for their work getting more and more providers across the country, especially providers in rural communities, ready to use EHRs.  The goal of the regional organizations is to ensure clinicians meet meaningful use and receive incentive payments through the EHR Incentive Programs, Mostashari said.  Through the end of May 2012, over 133,000 primary care providers and 10,000 specialists were partnering with RECs to overcome common EHR adoption barriers. Of these providers, 70 percent of small practice providers in rural areas as well as 74 percent of critical access hospitals are working with RECs and over 12,000 providers working with RECS have received their incentive payments, according to the CMS and ONC announcement.

 “Meeting this goal so early in the year is a testament to the commitment of everyone who has worked hard to meet the challenges of integrating EHRs and health information technology into clinical practice,” Tavenner said. “Not only have state Medicaid programs, public health departments, and many other stakeholders given their support to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, but numerous health professionals and hospitals have recognized the potential of EHRs to provide better patient care, cut down on paperwork, and eliminate duplicate screenings and tests,” she added.