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HHS Incentiviizing Effort to Make Health Records Available Electronically

Ernie Shannon's picture

New rules have been issued governing the next stage of electronic health record technology use by health care providers in the United States.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the stage two regulations will provide guidance to everyone participating in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs.

“We know that broader adoption of electronic health records can save our health care system money, save time for doctors and hospitals and save lives,” said Sebelius. “We have seen great success and momentum as we’ve taken the first steps toward adoption of this critical technology. As we move into the next stage, we are encouraging even more providers to participate and support more coordinated, patient –centered care.”

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Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified HER technology and use it in a meaningful way. What is considered “meaningful use” is evolving in three stages. The program is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Stage one began in 2011 and consists of transferring data to electronic health records and being able to share information, including electronic copies and visit summaries for patients.

Stage two is to be implemented by 2014 and includes new standards such as online access for patients to their health information, and electronic health information exchange between providers.

Stage three should be up and running by 2016 and involves demonstrating that the quality of health care has been improved.
The rules outlined by Sebelius this week specify the stage two criteria that eligible providers must meet in order to qualify for Medicare and/or Medicaid electronic health record incentive payments. It also specifies Medicare payment adjustments that, beginning in 2015, providers will face if they fail to demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic technology and fail to meet other program participation requirements.

The Department of Health and Human Services outlined plans to provide an additional year for providers who attested to meaningful use in 2011. Under this week’s proposed rule, stage one has been extended an additional year, allowing providers to attest to stage two in 2014, instead of 2013. The proposed rule announced by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology identifies standards and criteria for the certification of electronic health records technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals can be sure that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions to demonstrate either stage of meaningful use that would be in effect starting in 2014.