Providers have received more than $19 billion in EHR incentives

Providers who have become frustrated trying to meet the requirements for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' electronic health record meaningful use incentives program should take comfort in the latest report from the CMS. According to recent findings, the CMS has given out more than $19 billion in incentives payments to eligible providers – a number that may inspire some physicians to increase their efforts to be successful during stage 2 of the program. 

Government Health IT reported that as of the end of 2013, there were 440, 998 registered providers participating in the program. Robert Anthony, deputy director at the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services recently said at a Health Information Technology Policy Committee meeting that an estimated 88 percent of eligible hospitals have received a payment as part of the incentives program. Furthermore, nearly 4 out of 5 eligible Medicaid providers have been meaningfully using EHRs, as are 3 out of every 5 Medicare-eligible providers. Also, the report estimated that nearly 3 out of every 5 Medicare and Medicaid EPs are using these systems. 

The CMS also revealed results from a survey conducted in 2013, which found that, already, 19 percent of providers who had said they were planning on participating in stage 2 have adopted 14 of the 17 stage 2 core objectives. This number puts the government well on its way to meeting the prediction made by Farzad Mostashari in 2012, when he was the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and predicted that the federal government would pay out $20 billion in incentives to providers as part of the EHR program by 2015. 

Success is greatly outweighing failure
EHRIntelligence also recently reported on this milestone in the incentives program, and explained that only 213 EPs who have tried to attest to meaningful use have been unsuccessful, compared to 223,821 successes. Furthermore, every hospital that has attempted to attest to the program has seen success. 

The news source added that a major part of stage 2 requires physicians to boost their patient engagement, and research has shown that providers are working to do just that. However, providers who first attested in 2012 were slightly more likely to have already given their patients access to their files electronically than those who began attesting in 2011. However, the news source added that some vendors have yet to get EHR software ready for stage 2. This is why it is important for providers to stay in regular contact with their vendors, so that they will have a good understanding of when they will be able to get what they need to meet stage 2 requirements. 

Concerns remain
Modern Healthcare reported that individuals who have been advising the Department of Health and Human Services' EHR incentives program heard the concerns that health care providers have about the program. Mari Savickis, director of federal affairs for the American Medical Association, expressed some concerns about inflexibility within the program. 

"Some [of] our physicians are still in stage 1. Without flexibility, some of them will be dropping out," Savickis said, quoted by the news source. 

Furthermore, Chantal Worzala, policy director for the American Hospital Association, expressed concerns about how stage 2 of the program is moving along. 

"If there are any hospitals that have met stage 2, it can only be a few. Vendors are behind in delivery product. It's urgent that we get a signal very soon whether we will get more time to meet stage 2," said Worzala, quoted by Modern Healthcare. 

She explained that the AHA wrote a letter to HHS in December 2013, stating concerns regarding EHR development and whether providers would have everything they need for stage 2.