June 11, 2014 | Diana Manos
Participation in the federal EHR meaningful use program continues to grow, although relative success rates vary among different groups of eligible providers.
The total amount of EHR incentives paid out by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under the program reached $23.7 billion through the end of May. That was up from $22.9 billion through April, according to Elisabeth Myers, policy and outreach lead at the CMS Office of eHealth Standards and Services at the June 10 monthly Health IT Policy committee meeting.
The announcement comes as federal officials have proposed a reboot to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, taking into consideration the downsizing of ONC’s funding following the close-out of incentive payments.
During discussions at the HIT Policy Committee meeting, differences of opinion were voiced by EHR vendors, providers and policymakers in regard to the difficulty of reaching Stage 2 under the program and alternatives that could provide some relief.
Regardless, as of 2013, 97 percent of eligible providers in the U.S. have signed up to participate in the program, according to Jennifer King, acting director, Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation, and Modeling at ONC. Fifty-nine percent have received meaningful use Stage 1 incentives; 15 percent have received AIU (adopt, implement and upgrade) incentives only; 17 percent have registered for the program and have not yet received incentives; while five percent are enrolled in a regional extension center only, without moving forward yet.
Younger physicians and non-behavioral health providers ranked among the more likely to achieve meaningful use Stage 1 after they signed up for the program, said King, whose report to the HIT Policy Committee examined eligible providers’ participation in the EHR incentive program from 2011 through 2013.
Out of all sizes of physician practices, solo practitioners faced the most relative risk of failing to achieve meaningful use, the analysis showed.
Physicians in rural locations or in counties with the majority of its citizen living in poverty and physicians serving mainly minority patient populations also showed the greatest risk of failing to achieve meaningful use, King said.
Physicians who participate in either or both regional extension centers and patient-centered medical homes were also more likely to achieve meaningful use, King reported.