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First Electronic Health Record Incentive Payments To Be Issued However Few Are Able to Exchange Information as Required

electronic health record incentive paymentsThe Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology ("ONC") announced that the first electronic health record ("EHR") incentive payments were going to be made in mid-May to providers who had successfully attested to having met "meaningful use" and all of the other program requirements.  The maximum payment that a Medicare provider in the EHR program can receive in 2011 for his or her first year of participation is $18,000.  Incentive payments for eligible hospitals begin at $2 million.

In order to qualify for the financial incentives of EHR, physicians and hospitals must use EHR technology in order to electronically exchange health information to improve quality of care.  Generally, in order to meet this requirement most hospitals and physicians join regional health information organizations ("RHIOs").  However, a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that RHIOs are rarely financially viable.  Specifically, two-thirds of RHIOs could not cover their own operating expenses with the payments they receive from doctors and hospitals who exchange information through the RHIO.  Moreover, most of the RHIOs surveyed in the study could not exchange the type of information required by the government in order for providers to receive the EHR financial incentives.

Ultimately, the study calls in to question whether RHIOs can be "self-sustaining and effective" in helping health care providers utilize EHR.  Given that RHIOs are or most likely will not be effective under the EHR incentive guidelines, it is unlikely that physicians and hospitals can meet the requirements to continue to receive EHR incentive payments.

Categories: Technology

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