U.S. Health Department Will Offer Some Doctors Cash To Use E-Health Records - InformationWeek

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U.S. Health Department Will Offer Some Doctors Cash To Use E-Health Records

The pilot program aims to entice more doctors, especially those in small- to medium-sized practices, to use digitized health records.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is launching a new 5-year demonstration program to financially reward physicians who use electronic health record systems in their practices.

The pilot program aims to entice more doctors, especially those in small- to medium-sized practices, to use digitized health records, and in the bigger picture drive the United States closer to meeting a goal that President Bush set three years ago for most Americans to have interoperable health records by 2014.

The new program is "a very important milestone, a pathway to a system of health care to provide better quality of care at lower costs for all Americans," said U.S. Health Secretary Michael Leavitt during a teleconference on Tuesday to announce the program.

Only about 10% of U.S. doctor practices -- and only 5% of those in solo practices -- are using e-health record systems.

Among the hurdles in e-health record adoption by physicians is the cost and upheaval involved with implementing and supporting those systems, with questionable financial return for the doctors.

On the other hand, the use of health IT systems by doctors generally cut costs for insurance companies, health plans, and other payers by, for instance, eliminating redundant lab testing, as well as helping patients avoid becoming victims of medical errors by red-flagging potential mistakes.

The pilot, which will be conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will launch next spring and will be open to 1,200 physician practices that have three to five doctors in the practices. HHS estimates that 3.6 million patients could receive better quality of health care through the participation of those doctors in the pilot.

CMS will pay participating doctors a bonus each year of the pilot based on a score on a CMS standardized survey accessing the specific e-health record functions used by the practice to support quality health care.

All participating doctors will be required to use a certified e-health record system to perform specific functions, including ordering prescriptions and patient clinical documentation.

But each year of the pilot, "we up the ante," said Leavitt.

For instance, at the end of the second year, doctors will be asked to use the e-health record to report performance on quality measures to CMS, Leavitt said.

CMS says the "core incentive payment" to practices will be based on performance on the quality measures, with an enhanced bonus based on the how well integrated the electronic health record is in helping manage patient care.

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