E-health records adopted by more than 100K healthcare providers

About one-fifth of providers eligible for federal reimbursements now use some form of EHRs

Electronic health records (EHR) are now being used by 110,000 healthcare providers and more than 2,400 hospitals, according to a report released today.

In all, there are about a half-million healthcare providers and just over 5,000 hospitals across the country that are eligible to receive reimbursements for EHR rollouts through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

Today's report from the ONC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also showed that $5.7 billion in reimbursements have been paid to healthcare providers through the incentive programs.

CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, set a goal three months ago of having 100,000 healthcare providers making so-called "meaningful use" of EHRs by the end of 2012.

"Meeting this goal so early in the year is a testament to the commitment of everyone who has worked hard to meet the challenges of integrating EHRs and health information technology into clinical practice," Tavenner said in a statement.

Healthcare providers are deemed to be making meaningful use of EHR systems if they meet a set of federal standards that are being rolled out in three stages by the CMS and the ONC.

The EHR Incentive Programs, which began in 2011 under the Health Information for Clinical and Economic Health Act of 2009 (HITECH), provide incentive payments to eligible professionals, hospitals and critical access hospitals as they adopt, implement, upgrade or meaningfully use certified EHR technology to improve care. Eligible practices can receive up to $44,000 over five years under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. Hospitals can get millions in reimbursement funds.

As of the end of last month, about 48% of all eligible hospitals in the U.S. had received an incentive payment for making meaningful use of EHRs, the ONC stated. And one in every five Medicare and Medicaid eligible healthcare professionals in the U.S. had received similar incentive payments.

"The EHR Incentive Programs have really helped jump-start the use of electronic health records by healthcare providers all across the country," Mostashari said.

Additionally, the report showed that through the end of May, more than 133,000 primary care providers and 10,000 specialists were partnering with Regional Extension Centers (REC), the government-sanctioned professional service providers that help healthcare organizations roll out EHR systems.

Of the healthcare providers seeking help from RECs, 70% were small practices in rural areas. Almost three quarters (74%) of critical access hospitals are now working with RECs. There are now 62 RECs across the United States.

"These regional organizations work to ensure that these clinicians meet meaningful use [guidelines] and receive incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs," the ONC said. "Over 12,000 providers working with RECs have already received their incentive payments."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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