2012: The Year of Meaningful Use

Dr. Farzad Mostashari | March 26, 2012

Health IT plays a central role in building a 21st Century health care system—where care is safer, better coordinated, and patient-centered, where we pay for the right care, not just more care. Increasing the adoption and use of health IT is crucial, so we’ve set an ambitious goal for 2012: get 100,000 health care providers paid under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs by year’s end. For us to succeed, we need you—the states and our many other health IT partners—to join us in this effort. 

The EHR Incentive Programs, which began in 2011, give payments to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals as they adopt, implement, upgrade, or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. “Meaningful use” means providers need to show they’re using certified EHR technology in ways that improve care.

Health IT systems, including EHRs, help providers communicate better with each other about patient care, which reduces medical errors, helps cut down on paperwork, and cuts out needless duplicate screenings and tests. These all lead to better coordinated patient care and lower health care costs.

Thanks to the invaluable work of health IT coordinators, Medicaid programs, health IT Regional Extension Centers (RECs), leading hospitals, public health departments, and other stakeholders, CMS and ONC made significant progress in getting providers to adopt and use EHRs during 2011:

  • More than $2 billion in Medicare EHR Incentive Program payments were made between May 2011 and the end of February 2012.
  • More than $1.8 billion in Medicaid EHR Incentive Program payments were made between January 2011 (when the first set of states launched their programs) and the end of February 2012.
  • More than 59,000 eligible professionals and 2,000 eligible hospitals have been paid by the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
  • More than 120,000 providers, representing approximately 40 percent of primary care providers nationwide, enrolled with the RECs to get program information and help in adopting EHRs.

There’s every reason to expect that together we can increase these numbers greatly this year to reach our target of 100,000 providers. Working together with state Medicaid programs and CMS Regional Offices, many states are partnering with local stakeholder organizations to make sure providers get the help and encouragement to achieve “meaningful use,” and assistance with overcoming any barriers that are blocking their progress. Several states have already set ambitious targets:

  • Ohio has set a goal of having 10,000 providers receive EHR incentive payments in 2012, representing nearly 40 percent of all eligible professional and eligible hospitals in the state.
  • Washington State aims to have more than 7,000 providers receive EHR incentive payments this year, representing about 40 percent of the state’s eligible professionals and eligible hospitals.
  • California has set goals of 10,000 eligible providers receiving Medicaid payments and $500 million in incentive payments coming to the state by June.
  • New York State has set an initial target of more than 6,000 eligible providers receiving incentive payments in calendar year 2012.

Many of our provider partners have stepped up to the challenge as well. The National Association of Community Health Centers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association of Family Physicians have engaged their memberships in achieving meaningful use in 2012. The American College of Cardiology has set its own goal of 8,000 cardiologists by 2012—one third of its membership!

By working together, the health IT community can make 2012 the Year of Meaningful Use.