Federal, state and private-sector leaders rallied in Washington on Tuesday to pitch a vision of coordinated and higher-quality care courtesy of health information technology just as HHS put the final touches on a national Medicare project meant to measure, test and reward such behavior.
Under the CMS-led demonstration program, qualified physicians in 12 states/communities who use certified electronic health records to measure and improve the quality of care they deliver will become eligible for bonus payments from the government, federal health officials explained.
Smaller physician practicesbetween three and 10 doctorshave been targeted for the five-year program because all too often they are the ones who need financial assistance to help pay for the expensive systems the most, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.
By being picked, these 12 communities are now in a position to lead, Leavitt said, adding that the states/communities were chosen, in part, due to the amount of buy-in they got from physicians, payers and other stakeholders. They are leaders in a movement to transform into a health system that is driven by value.
Participating doctors will be judged by the CMS as to whether they meet certain benchmarks in the program. In each year, doctors who meet or exceed the benchmarks are eligible for the highest incentive payments, Leavitt said. For instance, in the first year, doctors will be evaluated on how effectively they use their EHR systems. In the second year, theyll be required to report on a set of national quality measures. Finally, in years three through five, the doctors will be gauged on whether they used the EHRs to improve care.
Assuming that all practices achieve the highest scores, the CMS could spend $150 million over five years on the project, Leavitt said.
The participating communities are: Alabama; Delaware; Georgia; Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisiana; Madison, Wis.; Maine; Maryland/Washington, D.C; Oklahoma; Pittsburgh; South Dakota; and Virginia.
In the meantime, federal lawmakers from the House and Senate said they want to move on a number of bills meant to help accelerate the adoption of health IT sooner rather than later. Despite having rare bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, electronic health initiatives have been held-up, blocked or otherwise buried over political jockeying.
Congress has not moved as quickly as I like, said Rep. Timothy Murphy (R-Pa.), a trained psychologist and co-chairman of the 21st Century Health Care Caucus.
The House earlier this month drafted legislation meant to match a similar bill in the Senate that would move forward on several health IT initiatives. And a broad Medicare bill, drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), includes several e-prescribing provisions as well.