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Many Providers Preparing for Transition to EHR, Surveys Show

Monday January 17, 2011
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Significant percentages of hospitals and primary care providers already plan to adopt electronic health records and qualify for federal incentive payments, according to government-commissioned surveys.

About 80% of hospitals and 41% of doctor’s offices intend to capitalize on incentives for adoption and meaningful use of EHR technology, based on data acquired by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology. The registration period for Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs began Jan. 3, although some states started the Medicaid portion of registration earlier.

The survey numbers represent a reversal of the low interest in EHR adoption in recent years, according to David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, national coordinator for health information technology. Blumenthal credited leadership from the medical community and the federal government for the turnaround.

“For years we have known that electronic health records would improve care for patients and bring about greater cost effectiveness in our health sector, yet adoption rates by healthcare providers remained low,” Blumenthal said. “In 2009, Congress and the president authorized major new federal support for EHR adoption and use, and in combination with medical professional and hospital leadership. I believe we are seeing the tide turn toward widespread and accelerating adoption and use of health IT."

ONC commissioned the surveys, which were carried out in the course of regular annual surveillance by the American Hospital Association and the National Center for Health Statistics, an agency of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under both Medicare and Medicaid, eligible hospitals can receive millions of dollars for implementing and meaningfully using certified EHR technology, according to a government news release. Primary care physicians and other eligible professionals can obtain incentive payments of up to $44,000 under Medicare and $63,750 under Medicaid.

To qualify for incentive payments under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, providers must achieve meaningful use of certified EHR technology in accordance with regulations issued by ONC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicaid providers can receive their first year’s incentive payment for adopting, implementing, and upgrading certified EHR technology but must demonstrate meaningful use in subsequent years to qualify for additional payments.

The Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH) provides technical support programs to providers as they switch to EHR.

“We know that adoption of EHRs and conversion to EHR-based care is expensive and challenging, especially for smaller providers,” Blumenthal said. “With HITECH, we are able to provide unprecedented funding and technical support programs to help providers make the transition and to help our nation achieve the improvements in healthcare quality, safety and cost effectiveness EHRs will bring about.”


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