2011 was a challenging year for healthcare IT professionals. Providers rolled out electronic health record systems to qualify for the government's Meaningful Use financial incentives. Meanwhile, mobile health apps took off, e-prescribing increased, health info exchanges got a start, and some organizations suffered data breaches. On the plus side, more health IT jobs became available.
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The rush to participate in the HITECH Act's $27 billion incentive programs for the Meaningful Use of health IT fueled adoption of electronic health records. Thousands of healthcare providers already have received incentive money for compliance and attestation to the federal government's Stage 1 Meaningful Use regulations.
As of November, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it had paid more than $920 million in MU incentive rewards to over 6,500 eligible providers and more than 400 hospitals. CMS also reported that more than 157,000 U.S. hospitals and physicians had registered to participate in the MU program.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey released in November found that 52% of office-based physicians in the U.S. intend to take advantage of the incentive payments available for doctors and hospitals through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
The CDC data also show that the percentage of physicians who have adopted basic EHR systems in their practice doubled from 17% to 34% between 2008 and 2011. The percent of primary care doctors using EHR technology nearly doubled during the same period from 20% to 39%.
As for healthcare providers who are warier of IT, the spotlight on EHRs seems to be pushing them into plans for adopting a system. By 2016, more than 80% of healthcare providers will put an EHR program in place, according to a recent IDC Health Insights report.
Stay tuned in 2012 as health industry stakeholders and government honchos keep hammering out the specifications for the next two stages of the Meaningful Use program. The final rule for stage 2 MU is expected by midyear.