Incentives Announced for Meaningful Use of EHR

July 13, 2009

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Starting in 2011, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) will provide qualifying physicians reimbursement incentives for showing "meaningful use" of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems. The maximum amount that a qualifying physician can receive for meaningful EHR use is $44,000. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology are currently in the process of developing the formal definition of "meaningful use," which will lay out all the details physicians must know to qualify for the incentives. There will be a final rule for standards, implementation, and certification criteria for the use of EHRs by the end of 2009.

The current draft of "meaningful use" supports a system that must show measurable outcomes in patient engagement, racial disparities, safety, efficiency, coordination of care, and improvement population health, all the while keeping patient information private and secure. The ultimate goal, as laid out in the first draft, is to aim for more organized, more coordinated, and more efficient care.

Providers have until 2015 to show "meaningful use" with an EHR system. After 2015, providers will be penalized financially until "meaningful use" of an EHR system is displayed.

The Academy supports a definition of "meaningful use" of EHR systems that facilitate better patient care and will not be an additional burden on providers. Physicians, especially those in small or solo practice, may have already selected less expensive EHR solutions that meet their needs, and it would cause an undue burden to force those physicians to replace their current system.

The Academy sent a comment letter to the Department of Health and Human Services in support of a "meaningful use" definition that includes the following specifications:

  1. Is efficiently used at the point of care to improve patient health and the patient-doctor interaction
  2. Is capable of electronically exchanging standardized patient summary data with all appropriate, HIPAA compliant parties involved in the clinical, financial, and administrative aspects of a patient's care through the use of federated identity
  3. Is capable of e-prescribing
  4. Is capable of documenting patient quality and safety data
  5. Incorporates best practices and clinical guidelines into an order entry system that supports efficient workflows
  6. Is interoperable with multiple different systems
  7. Is not limited to CCHIT certified products
  8. Must lead to demonstrable and measurable efficiencies in healthcare delivery that reduces healthcare costs for all clinical, financial, and administrative parties in the long run without sacrificing quality

Read more about meaningful use.

Review a fact sheet on incentives.