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12/30/2010
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EHR Incentive Programs Ready For Monday Launch

Eligible healthcare professionals and hospitals can begin registering to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record payment system.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that registration for its Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive programs will begin January 3, 2011.

"With the start of registration, these landmark programs get underway, and patients, providers, and the nation can begin to enjoy the benefits of widespread adoption of electronic health records," Donald Berwick, CMS administrator, said in a statement. "CMS has many resources available to help providers register and participate, and we look forward to working with eligible professionals and eligible hospitals to facilitate the process, beginning on January 3rd and going forward."

Starting Monday, registration will be available for eligible healthcare professionals and hospitals who wish to participate in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. On January 3, registration in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program will also be available in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. In February, registration will open in California, Missouri, and North Dakota. Other states likely will launch their Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs during the spring and summer of 2011.

"It's time to get connected," said David Blumenthal, head of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for health IT. "ONC and CMS have worked together over many months to prepare for the startup on January 3rd."

Blumenthal also said ONC's certified health IT product list includes more than 130 certified EHR systems or modules and is updated frequently. ONC also has hands-on assistance available across the country through 62 Regional Extension Centers.

"We look forward to continuing to work with CMS to assist eligible providers in 2011 and future years." Blumenthal added.

Eligible professionals and eligible hospitals must register in order to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, and can do so at a registration site maintained by CMS.

According to Berwick, the benefits of EHRs are widely recognized, and support for the incentive programs is strong in the healthcare field and among policymakers. He also said the changeover from paper to electronic records will be challenging for clinicians and hospitals, but CMS and ONC have taken steps to ease the transition.

"We've provided flexibility in meeting the meaningful use requirements, both agencies have conducted extensive outreach, and we have the resources in place to help providers acquire certified EHR technology and meet the programs' requirements. Immediate registration is not required, but we encourage eligible providers to sign up as soon as they have certified EHR technology and are prepared to participate. We are ready to help," Berwick said.

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