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HHS Announces Changes to Timeline for Meaningful Use

On November 30, 2011, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced policy changes designed to make it easier for health care providers and hospitals to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments, Modern Healthcare reports. Secretary Sebelius announced the changes during an event at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio. Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments. Under current regulations, eligible health care providers that attest to Stage 1 of the Medicare EHR incentive program this year would need to meet Stage 2 requirements in 2013. However, health care providers who attest to Stage 1 in 2012 would not need to meet Stage 2 requirements until 2014, but they still would be eligible for the same total incentive payment amount.

To encourage greater participation in the meaningful use program, Secretary Sebelius said that health care providers who meet Stage 1 requirements this year would not need to meet the Stage 2 standards until 2014. According to an HHS statement, “Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012.” HHS will launch outreach efforts to inform health care providers and health IT vendors about the policy changes. The agency said it will target outreach, education and training to eligible health care providers that have registered for the Medicare EHR incentive program but have not yet met the meaningful use requirements.

Secretary Sebelius also announced the release of a new Centers for Disease Control survey showing that the percentage of U.S. physicians who have adopted basic EHRs has doubled from 17% in 2008 to 34% in 2011. During the same time period, the percentage of primary care doctors using basic EHRs nearly doubled from 20% to 39%. The survey also found that 52% of office-based U.S. physicians now plan to participate in the meaningful use incentive program.

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