A new HHS plan to provide bonus payments to 1,200 physicians in a dozen communities for quality reporting using electronic health records received mixed reviews from industry executives, despite HHS claim it will be the largest step yet toward boosting adoption of EHRs.
The plan, which was announced by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt last week, is a move in the right direction but isnt likely to have much of an effect anytime soon, according to some.
Its a tiny step, said C. Peter Waegemann, chief executive officer of the Boston-based Medical Records Institute. Its OK. I wouldnt want them to not do it, but it is certainly not a major step forward. Its certainly not such a big step as when we get standards.
But Leavitt said the effort could have far-reaching effects. Its a direction post that I believe will be profoundly acknowledged and recognized in the marketplace. We have every reason to believe that this will be a red-letter day when this history is written.
Leavitt said the project will target physicians in small- to medium-size practices, where many Americans receive their healthcare. Most physicians have computers in their offices, Leavitt said, but only 25% have some kind of information system, and only 10% of doctors in group practices and 5% of physicians in solo practice are using an EHR.
This is not just about getting computers in doctors offices, Leavitt said, or even EHRs, noting that the goal is to solve simultaneously the problem of EHR adoption and interoperability.
Leavitt said the government doesnt have all the answers and the effort will allow future use of EHRs to develop. We will learn a great deal about how to make this work better, Leavitt said. We want to learn and we need to get better at paying for value and not just volume.
The plan got support from Mark Leavitt, chairman of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, a federally funded certification group. Medicare and Medicaid together purchase one-third of all healthcare in the U.S., making the CMS the undisputed $700 billion gorilla of the industry, Mark Leavitt said via e-mail. Even a tiny step by this massive organization is earth-shaking, especially when its in a brand new directionlinking healthcare reimbursement to the adoption and successful use of health IT, he said.
Nevertheless, other physicians contacted withheld a strong endorsement. Lyle Berkowitz, a practicing Chicago physician and president of Back 9 Healthcare Consulting, said that the CMS program is good, but only as far as it goes, and is no substitute for the need for broader reform of the payment system. Yes, its a good idea to provide bonuses to doctors for EHR utilization and quality reporting, he said, but this plan only affects a small amount of docs and ignores the doctors who already have installed systems.