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11/23/2009
03:28 PM
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Physicians Question Health IT Stimulus Requirements

A physicians practice industry group expresses concern about electronic health record incentive programs.

The Medical Group Management Association, a professional organization representing thousands of U.S. physician practices, has sent a letter to the National Coordinator for Health IT recommending steps that should be taken in the implementation of the federal government's $20 billion health IT stimulus program.

The MGMA said that while it supports physician practices' adoption of health IT, the group is "very concerned about the implementation process for the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs currently under development," in a letter to national health IT czar Dr. David Blumenthal dated Nov. 12.

"We believe that an inappropriate definition of meaningful use and inefficient administration of the program will lead to failed implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and result in the needless squandering of resources and significant disruption to the nation care system," said the letter.

There are several factors and unknowns about the upcoming meaningful use of health IT requirements that are worrying physician practices, said Robert Tennant, a MGMA senior policy advisor in an interview with InformationWeek.

Beginning in 2011, healthcare providers who meet the federal government's criteria for the meaningful use of health IT such as e-medical records, are eligible for additional payments from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid. Those payments could total in the tens of thousands of dollars for doctor offices between 2011 and 2015.

However, much of practices' anxiety about the upcoming meaningful use programs are due to how the federal government has run other quality reporting programs in the past, most specifically the Physicians Quality Reporting Initiative, Tennant said.

Under PQRI, doctors are also eligible for additional Medicare and Medicaid payments for reporting specific measurements related to the care of diabetic, heart disease and other patients. However, studies have shown that only about 50% of doctors who expected a quality reporting reward actually received the government bonus, he said.

That's in part because while doctors report the PQRI data all year, there's no feedback from the government whether the doctors are meeting the requirements. Mistakes in reporting or other problems that could be addressed by the practice go unnoticed until doctors fail to receive the previous year's bonus the following year, Tennant said.

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