Incentives a top reason for EHR uptake

ONC brief also puts need for data exchange as another critical draw
By Bernie Monegain
10:59 AM

The need to share patient information with other providers and the use of financial incentives are key drivers in why many providers adopt and use health information technology tools such as electronic health records, according a data brief released today from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The brief details why physicians decided to adopt – or not adopt – EHRs, and it helps to explain how financial incentives drive EHR adoption. The data, from the 2013 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, also highlights the high level of importance providers put on health information exchange.

The data demonstrates the importance of incentive programs such as the HITECH Act's Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and payments for services that include use of certified EHR technology, such as the separately billable Chronic Care Management services finalized under the 2015 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, according to the brief.

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[See also: ONC: EHRs grow, interoperability lags.]

Also, ONC posted today a new tool to help clinicians estimate the amount of money they might receive from treating Medicare patients living with chronic conditions, while using their certified health information technology, on the dashboard.

The results released today show that since the enactment of HITECH in 2009, 62 percent of physicians who adopted health IT tools identified financial incentives and penalties as a major influence on their decision to adopt, compared with only 23 percent of physicians who adopted before 2009.

"We have seen a significant increase in the adoption and use of health IT systems among providers and the new data shows the importance of incentives in building an interoperable health IT system," said Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordinator for health IT, and acting assistant secretary of health, in an ONC news release. "National delivery system reform initiatives linked to certified technology, such as the separately billable chronic care management services, will help make the electronic use and sharing of health information a reality."

[See also: ONC aims for SAFER use of EHRs.]

The ONC brief found that the ability to easily share electronic information with other care givers, an important component of chronic care management, is also a major motivation for physicians to adopt EHRs. Among physicians who adopted health IT before incentive funds were available, the ability to electronically exchange clinical information with other health care providers was the greatest motivator for adoption. More than a third of physicians who adopted EHRs after HITECH was enacted cited this capability as a major influence in their decision to adopt, and almost 4 in 10 physicians who were not using an EHR reported that the ability to electronically exchange clinical information would be a major driver in their decision to adopt.