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Sebelius reports on EHR incentives, Obama proclaims Health IT Week


By Rich Daly
Posted: September 12, 2011 - 4:45 pm ET
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Tens of thousands of physicians have signed up for the federal electronic health-record system incentive payment program, and the federal push appears popular in particular with rural clinicians, the Obama administration's senior health official said Monday.

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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a gathering of health IT leaders in Washington that more than 80,000 physicians have registered for the EHR incentive payments authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Also, about 70% of primary-care providers in small rural communities have signed agreements with regional extension centers, which were created by the law to give providers advice in purchasing and installing EHRs, among other IT consulting services.

"It's an indication that they are eager to get that help on the ground," Sebelius said about clinicians.

The extension centers are one of the cornerstones of the federal strategy to encourage nationwide adoption of EHRs. The other central components are $19 billion in federal incentives and a federal role in establishing common standards for the technology, according to Sebelius.

Separately on Monday, President Barack Obama proclaimed Sept. 11-17, 2011, as National Health Information Technology Week. Health IT tools "help patients and providers make safer, smarter decisions about healthcare," Obama said in the presidential proclamation. "I urge all Americans to learn more about the benefits of health IT by visiting HealthIT.gov, take action to increase adoption and meaningful use of health IT and utilize the information health IT provides to improve the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of healthcare in the United States."

A less-discussed tool federal officials will use to spur EHR adoption is the implementation of penalties for healthcare providers participating in Medicare who do not adopt and use qualifying systems. The penalty phase for hospitals and other qualifying healthcare facilities is slated to begin Oct. 1, 2014, while clinicians would face penalties after Jan. 1, 2015.


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