On July 13, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the publication of the final rule for the electronic health record (EHR) incentive program. The final rule announcement ended the holding pattern for providers eager to make the switch from paper to digital medical records.
The news comes a year and a half into efforts to implement the provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), introduced as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. HITECH’s reach extends well beyond EHR adoption to include the development of a strong framework and infrastructure to support health information technology (HIT) adoption and implementation, health information exchange infrastructure, HIT workforce training, and health information and communication systems research and development.
Under the provisions of HITECH, CMS estimates that between $14.1 and $27.5 billion in funding will be distributed through the EHR Meaningful Use incentive program. This program is meant not only to lend support for the acquisition of EHR systems, but also to ensure that systems purchased are capable of meeting the minimum requirements for secondary utilization and exchange of health information. As the name implies, the incentive program focuses on how EHR systems are used in practice, rather than simply providing incentives for their purchase. The requirements for the program are meant to encourage providers to use the system as more than simply an electronic medical chart. By letting go of “paper thinking,” providers can begin to realize the potential for an electronically supported practice transformation leading to greater efficiency, improved quality, and effectively coordinated care.
Are you an eligible provider? The rule defines eligible providers as:
Medicare: A doctor of medicine or osteopathy, doctor of dental surgery or dental medicine, doctor of podiatry, doctor of optometry, or a chiropractor who is not hospital based.
Medicaid: A physician, nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, dentist, or physician assistant who is not hospital based and must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have a minimum 30% Medicaid patient volume;
- Have a minimum 20% Medicaid patient volume, and is a pediatrician; or
- Practice predominantly in a Federally Qualified Health Center or Rural Health Center and have a minimum 30% patient volume attributable to needy individuals.
Are you using a qualified EHR system? The EHR Incentive Programs require the use of certified EHR technology, as established by these new standards. Existing EHR technology needs to be certified by an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Authorized Testing and Certification Body as meeting these new criteria in order to qualify for the incentive payments. At publication time, there are no certified EHR systems. As systems are tested and gain certification status, they will be populated to a list hosted on the ONC website at www.healthit.hhs.gov.