Under a news release headline of “We can’t wait: Obama Administration takes new steps to encourage doctors and hospitals to use health information technology to lower costs, improve quality, create jobs” HHS announced today that providers starting participation in the Medicare EHR incentive programs in 2011 will not be required to meet Stage 2 standards until 2014, a year later than was originally announced.
The previous timetable allowed providers to sit out a year and begin participation in 2012, thereby automatically extended their own Stage 2 deadline until 2014.
The announcement includes an HHS reminder that “doctors who act quickly” (by February 29, 2012, according to previously published dates) can still qualify for 2011 incentive payments.
The announcement also cites a new CDC study that found that 52% of office-based physicians plan to seek HITECH money, with 34% of practices now using electronic records software with at least “basic” capability.
From the announcement:
HHS also announced its intent to make it easier to adopt health IT. Under the current requirements, eligible doctors and hospitals that begin participating in the Medicare EHR (electronic health record) Incentive Programs this year would have to meet new standards for the program in 2013. If they did not participate in the program until 2012, they could wait to meet these new standards until 2014 and still be eligible for the same incentive payment. To encourage faster adoption, the Secretary announced that HHS intends to allow doctors and hospitals to adopt health IT this year, without meeting the new standards until 2014. Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012.
These policy changes are accompanied by greater outreach efforts that will provide more information to doctors and hospitals about best practices and to vendors whose products allow health care providers to meaningfully use EHRs. For example, in communities across the country HHS will target outreach, education and training to Medicare eligible professionals that have registered in the EHR incentive program but have not yet met the requirements for meaningful use. Meaningful use is the necessary foundation for all impending payment changes involving patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and value-based purchasing.