The big story in health information technology for 2011 is cash flow—as in more than $1.2 billion in federal cash that flows into the bank accounts of early participants in the electronic health-record incentive payments programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
IT incentive money starts flowing to providers
Through October 2011, more than $952 million in EHR incentive money is split among 857 hospitals, while $287 million is divvied up among nearly 14,500 office-based physicians and other eligible professionals, according to the CMS. The average payment to hospitals is a bit more than $1.1 million. Eligible professionals receive a fixed initial payment of $18,000 under the Medicare portion of the program and just over $21,000 under Medicaid. Medicaid, which got an early start by making its first payments in January, doles out a little more than $712 million; Medicare, which did not make payments until May, distributes roughly $528 million.
- Regulatory pressure is building on the industry to achieve the goals of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to provide most Americans with access to an electronic medical record by 2014. An early fissure as a result of that pressure comes as Dr. Farzad Mostashari, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, supports a federal advisory committee's recommendation in June that the CMS extend by one year the compliance deadline for Stage 2 meaningful use for some early adopters of health information technology.
- Breaches and privacy lapses make headlines again in 2011 as healthcare organizations suffer record data losses during the year. In September, in its report to Congress, the Office for Civil Rights at HHS says there have been more than 30,500 breaches, most with fewer than 500 records, since it began counting them in late 2009. By year's end, the office's public “wall of shame” lists 372 major breaches (involving 500 or more records each) totaling nearly 18 million records. Military healthcare payer Tricare Management Activity and its data backup services vendor, Science Application International Corp., tops the wall with the largest breach of the year at 4.9 million records.
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