Docs willing, but not ready, to collect MU incentives in 2011

There was a readiness gap between what physicians thought they could do and what they were eligible to do to collect meaningful use incentives last year, a new study finds.

According to the report, which appears in the May issue of Health Affairs, 91 percent of physicians nationwide said they were eligible for federal EHR incentives in 2011, but only ten percent intended to apply for the program, falling on the low side of what the federal government had anticipated.

Before the program started, CMS had estimated that 10 to 36 percent of Medicare-eligible professionals and 15 to 47 percent of Medicaid-eligible professionals would demonstrate meaningful use in 2011.

[See also: Mostashari predicts 'tough period ahead'.]

The new study was based on a 2011 survey of 3,996 physicians, according to its lead author, Chun-Ju Hsiao, a health services researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hsiao and her co-authors, Sandra Decker, Esther Hing and Jane Sisk said their results show that “a great discrepancy exists” between physicians’ intentions to apply for incentives and their readiness to meet even two-thirds of the core objectives for meaningful use. “The 85 percent of physicians likely to be eligible for Medicare incentives face more pressure to meet the requirements,” they said.

Among physicians intending to apply, about 21 percent were ready with the ten core capabilities, the survey found. In Wisconsin, the state with the highest percentage ready with those capabilities, only 32 percent of all physicians reported this degree of readiness.

[See also: Meaningful use criteria 'too high and too many'.]

The authors said the results of their study could help guide the regional extension centers, which aim to help with physician readiness. "The low level of current readiness illustrates the challenges in meeting the federal schedule for financial incentives," they said.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), during 2011, the first year of the incentive programs, almost 124,000 eligible professionals, including physicians, had registered for Medicare incentives, and the agency had paid nearly $275 million to 15,000 participants. Medicaid meaningful-use incentives totaled about $220 million and went to approximately 10,500 physicians.

Read the full study here.

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