Head of the pack

Early EHR sub­sidy re­cip­i­ents may have ex­pe­ri­ence

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Joseph Conn

So far, the early par­tic­i­pants rac­ing to qual­ify for fed­eral sub­si­dies for health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy are high­step­ping the hur­dles put in their paths to pay­ment, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral of­fi­cial. But that same of­fi­cial, speak­ing last week at a meet­ing of the fed­er­ally char­tered Health IT Pol­icy Com­mit­tee, warned against over­re­liance on these early, easy re­sults. Those physi­cians and or­ga­ni­za­tions fastest out of the start­ing blocks are also most likely to have had years of ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing their IT sys­tems, so meet­ing this first round of el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria will come eas­ier for them than for less ex­pe­ri­enced IT users to fol­low.

Robert Ta­gal­i­cod, the di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of eHealth Stan­dards and Ser­vices at the CMS, told mem­bers of the IT ad­vi­sory body that more than 77,000 providers have reg­is­tered for the elec­tronic health-record in­cen­tive pay­ments avail­able ei­ther un­der the fed­eral Medi­care pro­gram or state Med­i­caid pro­grams, both cre­ated by the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009.

Twenty-one states have their Med­i­caid EHR in­cen­tive pro­grams up and run­ning and re­ceiv­ing provider reg­is­tra­tions, Ta­gal­i­cod said.

Un­der the ARRA, the Medi­care EHR in­cen­tive pro­gram has a more strin­gent set of first-year el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments than do the var­i­ous state-run Med­i­caid pro­grams. With Medi­care, providers must at­test that they’ve used their cer­ti­fied EHRs to meet ei­ther 19 or 20 mean­ing­ful-use cri­te­ria, whereas un­der the first year of the Med­i­caid pro­gram, providers need only “adopt, im­ple­ment or up­grade to” a cer­ti­fied EHR.

Through July, un­der Medi­care, 66 hos­pi­tals and 1,078 physi­cians and oth­ers prac­ti­tion­ers, col­lec­tively known as “el­i­gi­ble pro­fes­sion­als,” have at­tested and been paid as mean­ing­ful users of their EHR sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to the CMS. Un­der Med­i­caid, 199 hos­pi­tals and 3,334 EPs have re­ceived EHR in­cen­tive pay­ments, the CMS re­ports.

Com­bined, the pro­grams have paid out nearly $400 mil­lion, Ta­gal­i­cod said. Early es­ti­mates peg the fed­eral out­lay for the life of both pro­grams as high as $27 bil­lion, how­ever, so both pro­grams are still in their in­fan­cies.

Un­der the Medi­care EHR in­cen­tive pro­gram, the start­ing gun sounded Oct. 1,

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