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Hospitals Ineligible for Incentive Payments Lag Behind in EHR Adoption

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The CMS incentive payment programs have a strange void and lack of funding for certain health care organizations that are a major part of our health system.

It is obvious that incentives are pointedly directed at primary care practices, since  the criteria for meaningful use have little application in many specialty practices, and would actually require redundant data entry for data that should be present in a patient’s file in the PCP practice.

In fact the original meaningful use metrics were manipulated to allow specialty practices to qualify for incentives.

Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

However, the incentive program excludes certain health care providers are such as:

  • Home health agencies;
  • Inpatient psychiatric hospitals;
  • Inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, Long-term acute care hospitals; and
  • Nursing homes.

The exclusion of SNFs is bizarre, since the medical record is essential when a patient becomes a resident for either a short or long term period in the SNF.

Hospitals that are not eligible for meaningful use incentive payments are less likely to adopt electronic health record systems, according to a study  published in the journal Health Affairs, AHA News reports (AHA News, 3/5).

Furthermore this absence of EMR in SNFs, Home Health Agencies will weaken linkage of vital information and undermine the importance of linkage to a health information exchange.

The researchers concluded, “To advance the creation of nationwide health information technology infrastructure, federal and state policymakers should consider additional measures, such as adopting health information technology standards and EHR system certification criteria appropriate for these ineligible hospitals.”

They also recommended that policymakers consider “low-interest loan programs for the acquisition and use of certified EHR systems by ineligible providers” (AHA News, 3/5).

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