Under the authority of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) developed programs that provide incentive payments to eligible professionals (EPs) and hospitals when they use electronic health records (EHRs) to achieve specified improvements in care delivery.
The goal of the Incentive Programs is to promote the “meaningful use” of EHRs — which means that providers have to use the EHR to achieve significant improvements in care. The program ties incentive payments specifically to the achievement of advances in health care processes and outcomes, i.e., the achievement of meaningful use.
The incentives are significant. Over the ten years of the programs, payments will total up to $27 billion. Incentive payments for EPs can range up to $44,000 over five years under Medicare or $63,750 over six years under Medicaid. Eligible hospitals can receive up to four years of financial incentive payments under Medicare beginning in 2011 and up to six years of incentive payments under Medicaid. Meeting the requirements of the Incentive Program can yield substantial payments – a typical 275-bed hospital could be eligible for approximately $6 million.
To ensure that providers are using technology that provides them with the capability to achieve meaningful use, the Incentive Program requires that providers use certified EHR technology – and ONC has issued regulations that lay out the standards and certification criteria that EHRs must meet in order to be certified.