Feds have given $7.7B in EHR money to doctors, hospitals

Eighty-one percent of hospitals have registered for deploying electronic health records under meaningful use rules

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has dispensed more than $7.7B in reimbursement payments to more than 307,000 healthcare professionals and 4,000 hospitals deploying electronic health records (EHRs).

The total cost for the EHR incentive program is expected to hit $22.5 billion over the next decade, according to the latest estimate provided by the Office of Management and Budget.

To date, 58% of the 521,000 eligible healthcare professionals in the U.S. have signed up for both the Medicare and Medicaid EHR meaningful use program reimbursements. A whopping eighty-one percent of hospitals, or 4,057 of 5,011 facilities, have done the same, according to the CMS.

Among those who received reimbursement money for EHR deployments were about 252,000 medical doctors, 17,000 nurse practitioners, 7,000 dentists, 7,000 podiatrists, 10,000 optometrists, 7,000 podiatrists, 6,000 chiropractors, and 2,000 nurse midwives, according to CMS's most recent data on the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which runs through September 30, 2012.

The number of hospitals and private physician practices deploying electronic medical records has leaped over the past two years because of fast approaching deadlines to deploy EHRs or face penalties.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, physicians who implement EHR systems and demonstrate that they are engaged in meaningful use of such systems can receive reimbursements of as much as $44,000 under Medicare, or as much as $65,000 under Medicaid. Hospitals can receive funds from both the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The federal government is requiring healthcare facilities eventually to achieve three stages of meaningful use of EHRs by over the next five years. To date, Stages 1 and 2 of meaningful use criteria has been defined by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC).

On average, hospitals receive about $4 million in reimbursements, but the largest single facilities can expect to receive as much as $12 million, said Dr. Mitch Morris, national leader for health IT at Deloitte Consulting.

The federal funds to date have all been dispensed for proving meaningful use of EHRs that are stage one certified. While eligible healthcare providers should begin preparing for Stage Two of meaningful use, providers are not required to meet Stage 2 meaningful use before 2014.

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.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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