The federal government has exceeded its goal that 50% of physician practices and 80% of eligible hospitals be using EHRs by the end of this year.
More than 291,000 eligible professionals, mainly physicians, have received incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs for adopting or meaningfully using electronic health record (EHR) systems, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today. The milestone, reached at the end of April, means that HHS has exceeded its goal that 50% of physician practices be using the technology by the end of the year.
“We have reached a tipping point in adoption of EHRs,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says, adding that the technology is “critical to modernizing our healthcare system."
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 included incentives for physicians, hospitals, and other eligible providers to adopt EHRs as part of an effort to improve healthcare quality and efficiency. The programs began in 2011 and are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.
The payments seem to be accomplishing their intended goal related to technology adoption. Doctors' and hospitals’ use of health information technology (IT) has more than doubled since 2012, according to HHS. As of 2008, 17% of eligible professionals and 9% of hospitals had adopted advanced EHR systems, a 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found. Now, more than 50% of eligible providers and about 80% of eligible hospitals (3,800) and critical access hospitals in the United States have received incentive payments for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using EHRs.
The federal government maintains that EHR adoption also is critical to meeting broader goals initiated under the Affordable Care Act. These goals-improving care coordination, reducing duplicative tests and procedures, and rewarding hospitals for keeping patients healthier-are facilitated by the widespread use of EHRs, according to HHS, in part because they lead to fewer errors and hospital readmissions.
"Health IT helps providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients’ health and save money at the same time," Sebelius says.
In turn, HHS says, efforts to improve care coordination and efficiency create additional incentives for providers to adopt technology.