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April 27, 2012 - Advocacy Corner

Top News
$4.5 Billion in Incentive Payments Paid Out as of March

According to a new report by CMS, 76,612 physicians and hospitals have received $4.5 billion in incentive payments through March 2012. Of that total, $339.9 million has been paid to Medicare eligible providers. As of March, nearly 226,000 providers have registered for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs. Government Health IT reports that “Medicaid payments for physicians and hospitals amounted to $254.1 million to adopt, implement and upgrade their EHRs and $13 million to demonstrate meaningful use in March. The Medicaid program started issuing payments in January for meaningful use in addition to updating their systems.”

Medicaid Payments began in January 2011. Through March 2012, more than $2 billion in Medicaid payments have been made. Similarly, between May 2011 when Medicare EHR incentive payments began and the end of March 2012, more than $2.3 billion in incentive payments have been made to EPs, eligible hospitals, and CAHs that qualified. The newest data shows that Texas, Florida, California, and Pennsylvania are among the top states to issue payments. For a state-by-state breakdown of physicians and hospitals registered for EHR incentive payments through March 2012, click here.

Department of Labor Helps Healthcare Workforce

Recently the Department of Labor launched a new portal to aid healthcare workers. The website, aimed at both current healthcare workers and prospective workers, will help them not only find job postings, but it will also list local education programs and include free online training courses. The Virtual Career Network (VCN) provides in-depth descriptions of over 80 healthcare careers. Prospective workers can expect to find information on the availability of jobs that meet their interests, instructions on how to become qualified for healthcare jobs and the typical wages offered for certain types of positions. Some news sources have reported that the website will have to prove its worth to win users from the already-established indeed.com, careerbuilders.com, and a few others. One feature that may help differentiate it is the open source platform that the website is built on to foster content contributions from outside organizations related to healthcare training and employment. The VCN website was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provided leadership and content for the website.

Study Says Many Eligible Physicians Plan to Apply for MU, But Many Not Ready

While some 76,612 physicians and hospitals across the country have collected $4.5 billion in incentive payments, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, many other physicians who planned to apply for incentive payments are struggling and are unprepared to meet the requirements for the EHR incentive program. According to the study, 51% of the respondents intended to apply for payments, but only 11% had EHR systems with at least 10 of the 15 capabilities required for the Stage 1 core meaningful use objectives. This lack of EHR technology, questions about ROI and other barriers are preventing smaller practices from qualifying.

The study concludes, “In the 2010 final rule adopted for stage 1 meaningful use, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that 10–36 percent of Medicare-eligible professionals and 15–47 percent of Medicaid-eligible professionals would demonstrate meaningful use in 2011. Our survey results fall at the low end of those ranges.” The study suggests that RECs might be guided by these findings to help physicians adopt health IT to receive incentive payments.

CHIME News & Notes
ONC Looks to Highlight CHIME Members for Helping Their Affiliated Docs to MU

During this month’s CHIME Members-Only StateNet meeting, CIOs had an opportunity to hear from ONC’s Mat Kendall, who directs the Office of Provider Adoption Support (OPAS). During his presentation, Mr. Kendall gave CIOs and update on ways that OPAS is looking to connect with providers. OPAS oversees the Regional Extension Center program and health IT workforce development efforts at ONC, including the 82-member Community College Consortia. Along with StateNet Chair Randy McCleese, Mr. Kendal announced his office’s intentions to work with CHIME in developing a Hospital-affiliated EP Meaningful Use Vanguards (Hospital-based EP MUVers) initiative. Details will be forth coming, but the goals of the program will be to recognize those hospitals who have helped their EPs and understand how they got their docs to Meaningful Use. Among other things, ONC hopes to develop a “toolbox” for hospitals in a set of best practices that identify challenges, barriers, systematic issues related to getting EPs to MU; identify those hospitals who are overcoming those challenges and share information.

For Mr. Kendall’s slides, click here.

For a recording of the presentation, click here.

Other News Items CHIME Is Reading:

Meaningful use still a challenge despite strides, say hospitals, Healthcare IT News, April 24, 2012
CMS Releases Final Rule on National Provider Identification Number, Health Data Management, April 25, 2012
HITRUST launches cybersecurity center, Healthcare IT News, April 24, 2012

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