EHR Incentive Funds Registration Launches in 11 States

Registration began a little more than two weeks ago for hospitals and medical providers in 11 states to qualify to land some $20 billion in stimulus funds, available under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), for adopting and implementing electronic health record (EHR) technology.

States opening registration on January 3, 2011 include Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. A second group, which includes California, Missouri, and North Dakota, will begin registration in February, 2011 with additional states beginning later in the spring and summer. By the end of the summer, all states will have been permitted to register.

Under the Health and Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments will be granted to eligible providers that meet the EHR "meaningful use" requirements by certain deadlines.

Registering hospitals and medical professionals must attest in a 90-day reporting period to meaningful use of the technology to receive incentive funds as early as May, 2011. In some cases, early reporting could yield incentive funds to qualified applicants by later this month or next.

The Healthcare Group at Computer Science Corp. (CSC), a Falls Church, VA provider of IT solutions and services that earlier this year launched an online community related to meaningful use which currently lists some 1,300 members, including 200 hospitals, recently observed some trends in EHR implementation and meaningful use documentation.

Accordingly, David Lewis, a CSC principal, offered a list of the top 10 reasons why EHR implementations are succeeding, based on the company's experience with clients. Lewis posted the list online at CSC's meaningful use community.

  1. Meaningful Use (MU) incentives and future reimbursement penalties for not meeting meaningful use guidelines are creating additional incentives to implement EHRs.
  2. MU, as defined for the EHR incentive program, eliminates ambiguity about what comprises an inpatient EHR, and provides guidance for implementation.
  3. Partly because of the above, vendor products are getting better; finally incorporating all required functionality, with improved ease of use.
  4. Organizations are embracing the need to implement this technology and are committing resources to it.
  5. Costs have always been a major barrier, and although the financial incentives of MU are tied to achievement rather than intentions, they are generous enough to cover part of the cost involved in implementing EHRs.
  6. There are now enough success stories in U.S. hospitals and health systems to show that what is called for in MU can be done with current EHR technology.
  7. Competition among provider organizations is forcing adoption; there is awareness among patients of the technology and they are demanding it.
  8. Hospitals will need to share information with patients and with unaffiliated providers who are participating in the care of patients. In addition, there are mandates to report on required measures of performance as a by-product of EHR use.
  9. Physicians, nurses and other providers are less reluctant users of the EHR.  Once past the learning curve and duplicative processes of paper and electronic record, productivity improvements may occur, which could help with shortages of primary care physicians and nurses.
  10. Improved patient safety, quality of care, improved clinical outcomes, and reductions in LOS and readmissions.

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