Final Rules for Stage 2 EHR Incentive Programs Released

First, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the long-awaited final rule to govern Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. The rule specifies the Stage 2 criteria that eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must meet in order to continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs.

  • Click here for the full text of CMS’s final rule.
  • Click here to see the fact sheet on CMS’s final rule.

Second,  the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) also announced a related final rule, which specifies the technical capabilities and related standards and implementation specifications that Certified EHR Technology will need to include to support the achievement of meaningful use by EPs, eligible hospitals, and CAHs under the EHR Incentive Programs.

  • Click here for the full text of the ONC rule.
  • Click here  to read a fact sheet on ONC’s standards and certification criteria final rule.

Stay tuned.  We will be posting more about these final rules in the days to come.

Kentucky joins 13 other states with CMS grants for EHR implementation

On Thursday, January 21, 2010, CMS announced that Alaska, Kentucky, South Carolina and Wisconsin, would receive federal matching funds for EHR implementation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  Kentucky’s grant is $2.6 million.  CMS indicated that the grant will be used to study EHR implementation activities in the state, to establish the state’s Medicaid HIT incentive program, and to evaluate provider eligibility for the Medicaid incentive funds under the HITECH Act, which was part of ARRA.  CMS has now made EHR grants to 14 states: Alaska, California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, New York, South Carolina, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Although the HITECH Act allows states to use federal matching funds to establish EHR loan programs for providers who need this avenue of support, there was no mention that the grant money would be used for that purpose.  This could leave some professionals who have a low or non-existant Medicare patient base and an insufficient Medicaid patient base to qualify for the Medicaid EHR incentives (e.g., some pediatricians), without access to EHR stimulus funds under ARRA.

To read the CMS press release on Kentucky’s grant, go here.  Information for this story also was gathered from Healthcare IT News and HealthImaging.com.

Iowa is first state to receive HITECH stimulus funds

As first reported by the American Bar Association’s Focus on E-Health and Privacy section, CMS announced on November 23, 2009, that Iowa’s Medicaid program is the first state to receive federal matching funds for planning activities necessary to implement the electronic health records (EHR) incentive program established by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) under the ARRA of 2009.  Iowa will receive approximately $1.16 million in federal matching funds.  CMS Director, Cindy Mann, noted that although Iowa is the first to receive the federal matching funds, a number of other states have submitted EHR incentive program implementation plans as well.  

To read more about HITECH state stimulus funding, see the article posted to this blog on September 10, 2009, here.

HIMSS Summit of the Southeast: Tennessee Commissior Gives Overview of State Grant Process

I attended HIMSS Summit of the Southeast in Nashville on September 9, 2009. As is probably no surprise, this was a well-attended conference with some good speakers and engaging panel discussions. Among the excellent speakers was David Goetz, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, who gave a “state of the state” address regarding Tennessee’s preparation to implement electronic health records.

Mr. Goetz highlighted the recent decision by HHS to allocate money to the states rather than use a competitive application process with regard to the award of grants for HITECH “cooperative agreements” that, per CMS, “focus on developing the statewide policy, governance, technical infrastructure and business practices needed to support the delivery of HIE [health information exchange] services.”  Mr. Goetz indicated that using an allocation process rather than competitive applications probably is more fair to those states who are not as far along with e-Health and are dealing with a budget crisis.  States still must file a letter of intent by Friday, September 11, 2009 to participate in this funding.  The actual application is due by October 16, 2009Not much time! 

Many more details about the grant application process are available here.

Kentucky Governor establishes Office of Electronic Health Information

On August 14, 2009, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed an Executive Order creating Kentucky’s Office of Electronic Health Information. This new Office will be the conduit for development of health information exchanges and the stimulus grants available to states under the HITECH Act.  The Secretary of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services is vested with authority to appoint the Executive Director for the Office. 

The press release announcing the creation of the office states that the Kentucky E-Health Network Board, which is administratively attached to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, will also serve as an integral resource to the Office as it moves forward.  CHFS Secretary Janie Miller said, “The Governor’s action will allow the Commonwealth to be in a position to apply for federal stimulus funds for planning and implementation of health information exchange to support infrastructure and build resource capacity, particularly for underserved communities.”  The Executive Order’s effective date is August 16, 2009.