CMS to pay bonuses for EHR use

November 9, 2007

In a long-awaited move, CMS has announced a five-year demonstration project that will reward physicians for using EHRs to improve the quality of care.

In a long-awaited move, CMS has announced a five-year demonstration project that will reward physicians for using EHRs to improve the quality of care. The pilot will involve up to 1,200 small and medium-sized practices—mostly primary care—in 12 markets that have yet to be chosen. Physicians will receive bonuses (the size of which hasn't been determined) for acquiring and using the EHRs in quality improvement in the first two years of the project. In years three to five, they'll have to meet specific quality goals to continue receiving extra payments. To qualify for the program, they must use EHRs certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT). CMS will pay its first bonuses after collecting a year's worth of data, according to Kerry Weems, CMS' acting administrator.

The recruiting of physician groups will begin by early spring, he says, and the pilot will be launched in late summer or early fall.

CMS claims that the project will be revenue neutral, because it expects savings from improved quality to counterbalance the extra payments to physicians. The agency will measure its return on investment over the full five-year span of the program, Weems says.

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