The federal government could pay out as much as $27 billion over 10 years, based on high rates of electronic health record adoption.
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Survey data released Thursday by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) show that 81% of the nation's hospitals and 41% of office-based physicians intend to register for federal incentive payments for adoption and meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.
ONC officials said the survey's results are an encouraging sign that healthcare delivery organizations plan to get on board with the government's Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs -- a key initiative to modernize the nation's health IT infrastructure.
Registration for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs began Jan. 3, with the first incentive payments issued earlier this month in two states -- Oklahoma and Kentucky.
David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, described the survey's findings as a reversal from the low interest in EHR adoption in previous years. "I believe we are seeing the tide turn toward widespread and accelerating adoption and use of health IT," Blumenthal said in a statement. "For years we have known that electronic health records would improve care for patients and bring about greater cost effectiveness in our health sector, yet adoption rates by healthcare providers remained low."
The data comes from the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both organizations, which annually monitor trends in EHR adoption, were commissioned by ONC to conduct the research.
The AHA survey found that 81% of hospitals plan to achieve meaningful use of EHRs and take advantage of incentive payments, while 65% of hospitals say that they will enroll during Stage 1 of the incentive programs in 2011-2012.
The NCHS survey found that 41% of office-based physicians are planning to take advantage of the incentive payments, and 32.4% plan to enroll during Stage 1 of the programs. Only 14% of respondents said they were not planning to apply for meaningful use incentives.
NCHS data shows that 29.6% of primary care physicians have already adopted a basic EHR, up 50% from 2008's 19.8% adoption rate. While basic EHRs provide a point-of-entry for physician offices, most would need to further upgrade their EHR systems -- or their use of the systems -- to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments.