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HHS dangles awards in push for IT adoption

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The Obama administration continues to push forward with its bid to get hospitals and physician practices wired. It encourages them to adopt information technology that can meet the meaningful-use standard, which will qualify them for incentive payments and avoid future Medicare penalties. HHS officials pull back, however, on deadlines for providers and payers to shift to new transaction and clinical codes.

HHS awards about $3.95 billion through its Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments through November 2012, the most current data available at yearend. That brings the total paid out to an estimated $9.25 billion during the two years of the stimulus law programs. The 2012 tally is certain to grow after the year's late filers get their checks. The payments have reached 3,750 hospitals and 170,100 physicians and other health professionals that either achieved meaningful use as a certified EHR or adopted, implemented or upgraded using a certified EHR.

The CMS twice delays the enforcement deadline for the transition to 5010 transaction standards for medical claims, a precursor to the much more complicated move to the International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision (ICD-10) of diagnostic and procedure codes.

Under intense pressure from provider organizations, particularly the American Medical Association, the CMS gives hospitals, physician practices, health plans and all other HIPAA-covered entities one more year for the ICD-10 conversion, pushing the deadline to October 2014. The AMA, however, isn't satisfied. Its House of Delegates passes a resolution in November to press the CMS to halt implementation of ICD-10 and instead explore whether the U.S. should wait for ICD-11 codes, expected to be released in 2015.


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