Eligible Providers Have Until October 3 to Start EHR Incentive Reporting Period

Eligible professionals (EPs) have until October 3, 2012 to commence their consecutive 90-day reporting period for the Medicare Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program for the 2012 calendar year. In order to receive an incentive payment for meeting meaningful use standards, EPs must participate in the reporting period.

By participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, EPs, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals may receive up to $44,000 over five years if they can demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. Providers in Health Professional Shortage Areas are eligible for additional incentive payments as well. EPs must begin participation in 2012 in order to receive the maximum incentive amount.

Chiropractors and doctors practicing medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, podiatry, and optometry qualify as EPs under the program. In order to receive an incentive payment, an EP must not be considered hospital-based; in other words, the EP must not perform 90 percent or more of his or services in an inpatient hospital or emergency room. Regardless of how many locations at which an EP practices, each EP is only eligible for one incentive payment annually.

Certified Technology and Meaningful Use

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has adopted certification criteria, standards, and implementation specifications for EHR technology that qualifies for the incentive program. In order for an EP to qualify for incentive payments, the technology utilized must have been certified by an Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) Authorized Testing and Certification Body (ATCB); however, the technology does not have to already be in place as a prerequisite to registration in the incentive program.

Meaningful use” is the utilization of certified EHR technology in measurable ways such as e-prescribing and the electronic exchange of health information. During the five-year course of the incentive program, three steps will be followed to phase in the criteria for meaningful use. The current phase began in 2011 and will last through 2012 and focuses on establishing a baseline for sharing information and capturing electronic data.

To demonstrate meaningful use, an EP must meet 20 of 25 set objectives such as providing patients electronic access to their medical records, exchanging health information with other providers, and transmitting prescriptions electronically. The second and third stages are set to be implemented in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and will develop the first stage’s baseline further.

EPs must demonstrate meaningful use through adoption, implementation, or upgrading of EHR technology  for each year of the program as a condition of receiving an incentive payment for each individual year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines adoption as the acquisition and installation of certified EHR technology. Implementation is the actual use of the technology, and upgrading is defined as the expansion of existing technology to meet certification requirements.

Registration and Tools

CMS provides several online tools to assist EPs in reporting their meaningful use measures. Resources include the CMS Eligible Professional Attestation Worksheet, the Attestation User Guide for Eligible Professionals, and the Meaningful Use Attestation Calculator.

EPs can participate in the program by registering at https://ehrincentives.cms.gov/hitech/login.action.