According to federal data through February, the adoption of electronic health records has been accelerating with Medicare physicians while the rate for adding the technology is slowing in hospitals.
Data released by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reveals the cumulative incentive payments for physician adoption of electronic health records reached $636 million, a 57 percent increase over the previous month. In hospitals, the increase was just 10 percent, with payments rising to $1.4 billion in February.
Just last December, the EHR incentive payments for hospitals saw a 50 percent increase in cumulative payments. There was a 51 percent EHR payment increase for physicians. Members of Medicare’s advisory board have said that provider participation rates are below the program’s projections, while hospital and physician advocates say adoption rates are lagging because of high associated costs and difficult regulatory requirements in the program.
George Miller Jr., a MedPAC commissioner and CEO of Okmulgee Memorial Hospital in Oklahoma, said it will take four years for his hospital to recoup its costs to install and implement their electronic health records system, even with the incentive payments.
Eligible healthcare professionals can receive up to $44,000 over five years under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. There’s an added incentive for eligible doctors who provide services in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HSPA). To get the highest incentive payment, doctors have to begin participating in the program this year.
According to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released at a MedPAC meeting, 3,280 hospitals (58 percent of eligible facilities) have registered with the program, while 126,321 physicians (25 percent of eligible doctors) have done so. The numbers for those who have received payments is significantly lower: only 796 hospitals (16 percent) and 31,650 physicians (6 percent).