HHS Announces Dramatic Increase in Adoption of Electronic Health Records

Doctors Using EHROn May 22, 2013, Kathleen Sebelius,  Secretary of the United States Health & Human Services Department, announced that over 50 percent of doctors and over 80 percent of hospitals are making a “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) and have received incentives for such use.   By comparison, in 2008, just nine percent had adopted EHRs.  Secretary Sebelius credits the “dramatic increase” in adoption of EHRs to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) that was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  The HITECH Act awards incentives to eligible professionals (physicians) and hospitals who make a “meaningful use” of EHR technology that has been certified by the HHS Office of National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC).  The HHS press release with further information is available here.

Early Meaningful Users Promised Stage 2 Extension

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.

ONC Releases Model Privacy Notice for Personal Health Records

After the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009, the interest in storing and accessing health information online increased, prompting increased concerns about the privacy and security of such information.  In September 2011, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released a Personal Health Record (PHR) Model Privacy Notice for public use.  This Model Notice meets ONC’s initial goal in a multi-phased, consumer project to increase consumer awareness of PHR companies’ data practices.  The next phase seeks to empower consumers by providing them with an easy way to compare the data practices of two or more PHR companies.  Continue reading

Health Care Reform & HITECH Update for Employers: Webinar

The health care reform law is massive, and it will take time for employers to develop appropriate plans for compliance. The first transformative step in health care reform actually started with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). The HITECH Act set the course for implementing a nationwide network of electronic health records (EHRs). One of the main goals of the HITECH Act is to ensure privacy and security.  Why might this be important to a business that is not a health care provider?  To find out, join the Kentucky Chamber’s webinar, Health Care Reform Update for Employers, on December 16, 2010, from 3:00 to 4:00 pm (EST). The first part of the webinar will focus on the employer and its HR department, looking at the new laws and discussing what decisions an employer must consider in light of these new laws. Jason Lee, Esq., a member of the Tax, Business & Personal Planning Service Team at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP, will lead this discussion, which also will include an overview of tax credits and penalties, as well the changes in effect now and those coming in the future, for employers. The second part of the webinar will focus on the changes that occurred last year with the passage of the HITECH Act.   Kathie McDonald-McClure, Esq., Editor of the HITECH Law Blog and a partner with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP, will lead this discussion. She will highlight certain provisions of the HITECH Act’s new privacy and security provisions that will have an immediate and direct impact on certain businesses, including those that do not directly provide any health care. For more information, and to sign up, click here.

ONC Issues Proposed Rule for Two EHR Certification Programs

On March 2, 2010, the Office of National Coordinator (ONC) issued its proposed rulemaking respecting the certification standards that an eligible health care provider’s electronic health record must satisfy in order to qualify for incentives under the Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health Act (HITECH Act), which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The ONC proposes establishing two certification programs:

1) A temporary certification program whereby the ONC would authorize organizations to test and certify Complete EHRs and/or EHR Modules, thereby assuring the availability of Certified EHR Technology prior to the date on which health care providers seeking the incentive payments may begin demonstrating meaningful use of Certified EHR Technology; and

2) A permanent certification program that would replace the temporary certification program. The permanent certification program would separate the responsibilities for performing testing and certification, introduce accreditation requirements, establish requirements for certification bodies authorized by the ONC related to the surveillance of Certified EHR Technology, and would include the potential for certification bodies authorized by the ONC to certify other types of health information technology besides Complete EHRs and EHR Modules.

The comment period for the proposed rule will be established once it is published in the Federal Register. In the meantime, you can read the proposed rule on the ONC’s webpage.