Meaningful Use Registration, Payments Jump in August

Slow to start after launching in January, the Medicare and Medicaid meaningful use EHR incentive programs are picking up speed. Participation in the programs more than doubled between July and August, according to staff from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services presenting at the September 14 meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee.

More than 13,000 physicians and hospitals signed up for the two incentive programs in August, a 30 percent increase from July, bringing total registration to 90,650 eligible participants.

Predicting how many—or how quickly—hospitals and professionals would join the meaningful use program has been difficult. The biggest achievement of stage 1 to date has been just getting people onboard, said Sanin Rahman, senior consultant at consulting firm Arcadia Solutions, quoted in an October Journal of AHIMA story reviewing the program’s progress.

“One of the biggest successes is the fact that the industry took to meaningful use as much as it did, and the fact that it is driving more and more providers at a scale—that is honestly unprecedented—towards EHRs,” Rahman said, speaking with the journal earlier in the summer.

Incentive payments also leapt in August, CMS staff also told the committee, reflecting the rise in participants who have successfully completed the 90-day reporting period required in the first stage of the program.

In August Medicare paid incentives to 1,051 physicians, nearly double the 566 physicians paid incentives in July. A total of 2,129 physicians have received payments to date, with more than half of the $263 million being paid in August alone.

The Medicaid incentive program, which pays providers to adopt, implement, or upgrade an EHR system, has also grown as more states launched their programs. As of September, 27 states have Medicaid incentive programs in place, though not all have paid incentives yet.

Close to half of all Medicaid payments made this year were handed out in August. Nearly 1,400 physicians and hospitals were paid $150 million that month, bringing the year-to-date total to $389 million.

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