On November 30, 2011, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a press release announcing proposed steps to encourage physicians and hospitals to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) this year and receive incentive payments made available under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act), which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
Under the HITECH Act, physicians and hospitals have the opportunity to earn financial incentives from Medicare and Medicaid if they demonstrate the adoption and meaningful use of certified EHRs in a series of three stages. Under the current rules, physicians and hospitals that adopt EHRs in 2011 and attest to meeting Stage 1 meaningful use standards by February 28, 2012 must meet Stage 2 standards in 2013. If they wait until 2012 to attest to Stage 1, providers could delay Stage 2 compliance until 2014. To encourage more providers to adopt EHRs in 2011, instead of waiting until 2012, HHS proposes to allow providers who qualify for Stage 1 meaningful use in 2011 an extension until 2014 to meet Stage 2 standards. HHS clarified that providers first attesting to meaningful use in 2011 qualify for both 2011 and 2012 incentive payments.
These proposed steps are consistent with June 2011 recommendations from the Health IT Policy Committee (HITPC). As we reported this summer, HITPC advocated that providers who begin to attest to meaningful use in 2011 be provided an extra year “to phase in the stage 2 expectations (i.e., Stage 2 for those who attest in 2011 would begin in 2014).” HHS listened!
HHS intends to publish this extension in the Stage 2 meaningful use Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in February 2012.
At the same time, HHS also released new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing increased adoption of EHRs by physicians. The CDC report documented that physicians’ adoption of health information technology (IT) doubled in two years, and 52% of physicians intend to apply for meaningful use incentives, up from 41% in 2010. Click here to access additional information about achieving meaningful use, including the CDC report.