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HHS reports on surging use of EHR


More than half of all physician practices and other eligible providers, including nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives, have received Medicare or Medicaid incentive payments for adopting or meaningfully using electronic health records, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

HHS stated it thus has met and exceeded its goal for 50% of physician practices and other eligible providers and 80% of eligible hospitals to have EHRs by the end of 2013.

According to a CDC survey last year, only 17% of doctor’s offices and 9% of hospitals were using an advanced EHR system in 2008.

“We have reached a tipping point in adoption of electronic health records … which are critical to modernizing our healthcare system,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. “Health IT helps providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients’ health and save money at the same time.”

The Obama administration has pushed for the adoption of health IT starting with the passage of the Recovery Act in 2009. Physicians, hospitals and other eligible providers that adopt and meaningfully use certified electronic health records receive incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

Practices led by nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives are eligible for the Medicaid incentive payments if at least 30% of their patient encounters come through Medicaid. First-time payments under the programs are as high as $18,000 for Medicare and $21,250 for Medicaid.

Part of the Recovery Act, these programs took effect in 2011 and are administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.

Adoption of EHRs is also critical to the broader healthcare improvement efforts that have started as a result of the Affordable Care Act. These efforts — improving care coordination, reducing duplicative tests and procedures and rewarding hospitals for keeping patients healthier — are made possible by widespread use of EHRs, according to HHS. Health IT systems give physicians, hospitals and other providers the ability to better coordinate care and reduce errors and readmissions that can cost more money and leave patients less healthy. In turn, efforts to improve care coordination and efficiency create further incentive for providers to adopt health IT.

As of the end of April, more than 291,000 eligible professionals and 3,800 eligible hospitals had received incentive payments.

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