$5.7 Billion in Taxpayer Money Spent So Far to Encourage Use of Electronic Health Records

By Susan Jones | June 19, 2012 | 12:27pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration has paid more than $5.7 billion in the past year to health professionals to encourage the use of electronic health records, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Tuesday.

As of the end of May, more than 110,000 health care providers and 2,400 hospitals had been paid to use the new technology through an incentive program established by the HITECH section of the stimulus law, which President Obama signed in 2009.

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program, which began in 2011, pays eligible professionals and hospitals to adopt, implement, upgrade, or "meaningfully use" certified EHR technology in ways that improve care. Eligible professionals include physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and some physician assistants.

The Democrats'  law called for doctors’ offices and other medical providers to utilize an electronic health record (EHR) "for each person in the United States by 2014."  Theoretically, EHRs will lower health care costs by reducing paperwork, administrative burdens and medical errors.

As CNSNews.com has previously reported, some Americans fear that electronic health records will put their privacy at risk.

Three months ago, CMS officials set a goal of getting 100,000 health care providers to adopt or meaningfully use EHRs by the end of 2012.

“Meeting this goal so early in the year is a testament to the commitment of everyone who has worked hard to meet the challenges of integrating EHRs and health information technology into clinical practice,” said CMS Acting Administrator Tavenner.

“Not only have state Medicaid programs, public health departments, and many other stakeholders given their support to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, but numerous health professionals and hospitals have recognized the potential of EHRs to provide better patient care, cut down on paperwork, and eliminate duplicate screenings and tests.”

The CMS news release noted that by the end of May 2012:

-- More than 110,000 eligible professionals and over 2,400 eligible hospitals have been paid by The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

-- Approximately 48 percent of all eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals in the U.S. have received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR.

-- One out of every 5 Medicare and Medicaid eligible professionals in the U.S. has received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR.

--Over $5.7 billion in EHR Incentive Program payments were made, as follows: More than $3 billion in Medicare EHR Incentive Program payments were made between May 2011 (when the first payments were released) and the end of May 2012. And more than $2.6 billion in Medicaid EHR Incentive Program payments were made between January 2011 (when the first states launched their programs) and the end of May 2012.

-- 44 states are participating in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program as of May 2012.

CMS said it expects the remaining states to launch their Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs by the end of 2012.

“The EHR Incentive Programs have really helped jump-start the use of electronic health records by health care providers all across the country,” said Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the national coordinator for health information technology.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is responsible for the “development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of information" that, among other things, "reduces health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information" and "provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care,” according to Section 3001 of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

Also see:

HHS Says You Should Know Who's Been Looking at Your Electronic Health Records (1 June 2011)

Obesity Rating for Every American Must Be Included in Stimulus-Mandated Electronic Health Records, Says HHS (14 July 2010)

Sen. Cardin: Sensitive Health Info. – Drug Abuse, Abortion, Depression – Will Go Into Electronic Health Records, But Access Restricted (18  Jan. 2010)

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