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March EHR adoptions slow to a trickle


By Joseph Conn
Posted: April 29, 2014 - 3:15 pm ET
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The early adopters and even the late followers appear to have already joined the federal EHR incentive payment program and the holdouts or those not successfully participating are shaping up to be a significant number of providers, the latest CMS data indicate.

Since the program began making payments in early 2011, 90.4% of the 5,011 estimated eligible hospitals and 69.6% of the estimated 527,200 physicians and other professionals eligible to receive payments have been paid under the programs created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Closing the gap with the remaining 9.6% of hospitals and 30.4% of physicians and other largely office-based providers could be a tough sell, however.

In the early years of the program, 2011 and 2012, physicians who signed up could receive full payments of $44,000 under the Medicare portion of the EHR incentive program. Many of the early adopters who already had an EHR could use the program to help pay for an upgrade, said Dr. Steve Waldren, senior strategist for the Center for Health Information Technology at the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“We had all sorts of resources and push, and now I think it's going to be uphill,” Waldren said. From here on, payments under Medicare are reduced. Providers this year must use an EHR that has been tested and certified to the 2014 Edition standards—and there's been a backlog from the developers on the upgrades—so increased EHR adoption will be slowed. “I think it's going to be a rough couple of years” for program promoters and participants, he said.

Just 41 providers—nine hospitals and 32 office-based physicians and other “eligible professionals”—are listed as “unique providers paid (in the) 2014 program year” in the March CMS report. There were none for Medicare, but that's understandable, Waldren said.

Under the Medicare program, physicians' who were ready could start their 90-day meaningful use attestation period Jan. 1, so it will take another quarter before results from that program trickle in, he said.

Medicaid, meanwhile, does not require 90 days of meaningful use for first-year participants, only that they adopt, upgrade or implement a tested and certified system.

Based on additional payments made through March for 2013 payment years, the number of new physicians and other eligible professionals rose by 16,099 providers, up 4.4% from February, and by 17 hospitals, or 0.4%.

So far, the program has paid out $22.9 billion—$14.3 billion to hospitals and nearly $8.6 billion to physicians and other professionals.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn


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