Researchers at The George Washington University Department of Health Policy have found through analysis of federal survey data that more than four in five office-based physicians could qualify for new, federal Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
Their findings are in a new article, which appears in the March 2011 issue of Health Affairs.The EHR Incentive Programs are designed to incentivize hospitals and eligible professionals who participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs to adopt electronic health record.
The authors identify four basic groups of physicians based on eligibility for EHR Incentive Programs and use of electronic health records:• Physicians who lack basic electronic health record systems but who could be eligible for the incentive payments to acquire or upgrade systems (70.5% of office-based physicians);
• Physicians who may be eligible for incentives and already have basic electronic health record systems (12.1% of office-based physicians);
• Physicians who are not eligible for incentives but already have basic electronic health record systems (2.8% of office-based physicians); and
• Physicians who are not eligible for incentives and also lack basic electronic health records (14.1% of office-based physicians).
Additionally, the authors’ find that up to 90.6 percent of office-based physicians working in general or family practice or internal medicine could qualify for incentives under the EHR Incentive Programs, however less than two-thirds of pediatricians, obstetricians-gynecologists, and psychiatrists may qualify. Physicians based in community health centers or rural health clinics are virtually all eligible for Medicaid meaningful use incentives based on their patient base.
“The financial assistance provided by these incentives, in conjunction with other initiatives, should greatly accelerate adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records, making the potential benefits of health information technology more widely available,” said Brian Bruen, Lead Research Scientist in the GW Department of Health Policy and lead author of the article.
“As these programs take effect, it will be important to monitor the gaps in eligibility for the EHR Incentive Programs incentives and use of electronic health records, as these gaps may lead to digital divides that hinder efforts to integrate care across providers,” said Leighton Ku, Professor of Health Policy and co-author of the article.+
The article can be found in the Health Information Technology section of the March, 2011 issue of Health Affairs, and also online at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/3/472.abstract.