CMS officials offer snapshot of recent MU progress, $7.7B paid out

By Anthony Brino
12:24 PM

Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) took stock of the federal government’s Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs and pointed to recent signs of progress.

With some growing pains, the Meaningful Use program has emerged as a model for multi-stakeholder collaboration in healthcare, Rob Tagalicod, director of CMS’s Office of Health Standards and Services, said during the HIMSS Government Health IT Virtual Briefing on Wednesday.

In September 2012, nearly 20,000 eligible professionals (EP) registered for EHR incentive payments. By CMS's guess, about half of EPs and nearly 81 percent of eligible hospitals are registered.

Although registration doesn’t necessarily mean that providers will participate, “We’re really happy with these numbers,” Elizabeth Shinberg Holland, director of CMS’s HIT Initiatives Group, said.

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As of September, about $7.7 billion has been paid through Meaningful Use incentive payments — about $1.4 billion for Medicare EPs, $1.2 billion to Medicaid EPs and about 4.8 billion to eligible hospitals.

Among the most common EHR menu objectives chosen for attestation, CMS has found, are immunization registry, drug formulary and patient lists for EPs and advance directives, drug formulary and clinical lab results for eligible hospitals.

Among the least popular menu objectives for EPs are transitions of care and patient reminders, and transitions of care and syndromic surveillance for EHs.

“It is a little concerning to us,” Holland said, that the least popular menu objectives are also ones that tend to involve interoperability. That’s a sign that the pursuit of interoperability remains a hurdle, Holland said.

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Among signs of progress, Holland added, Medicare providers who have been meaningful users for 90 days tend to use them for every patient and appear to be embracing EHRs as part of their workflows, even if they’re deferring on some menu objectives.

Looking at the current state of EHR adoption in the U.S., Holland said, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a lot of success, with many providers continuing through Stage 2 to clinical data demonstrations, while at the same time there are some providers who are just now thinking of adopting EHRs.