Meaningful use off to a great start in 2011

By Diana Manos
10:09 AM

WASHINGTON- Registration for eligible providers to sign up for participating in the federal electronic health record meaningful use incentive program began Jan. 3, 2011. The program started off with a bang, and continues to grow.

Three days past opening day for registration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said some 4,000 healthcare providers had signed up, with numbers expected to grow daily, according to CMS.
At an Oct. 12 Health IT Policy Committee meeting, Robert Anthony, from the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services reported the agency had paid out $25 million to 1,400 eligible providers and $61 million to 30 dually eligible hospitals in September alone.

Since the beginning of the year, CMS has paid out $870 million in incentives. “We are well on track to pay out $1 billion by the end of this year,” Anthony said.

According to CMS’ earliest data on the program, September showed 17,000 additional eligible providers had registered for the program – a 70 percent increase over August. As of September, some 114,000 providers – including both hospitals and eligible providers – had registered for the program, he said.
At a June 27 session of the National Health IT and Delivery System Transformation Summit in Washington, Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for health IT, made an eloquent and persuasive case for how meaningful use is not just an arbitrary set of requirements the government is asking of providers in exchange for incentives.

The health IT chief said he is encouraged by many things. From 1989 to 2009, 20 percent of providers adopted EHRs. Since 2009, that adoption percentage has increased an additional 10 percent, to 30 percent.

Some 86 percent of hospitals intend to attain meaningful use, according to Mostashari, “and they are not doing it just because of the money. “They are doing it because meaningful use is aligned with what they mean to do,” he said.

Five thousand to 10,000 providers a month are registering for meaningful use, and 6,000 providers are signing up each month for assistance from the regional extension center. RECs now have 79,000 providers registered, mostly solo practitioners or small practices, he said.

“It’s hard to do the work, but we have the means, the alignment and the coordination to do it,” he said. “It’s never been a better time.”