CMS has paid $3.12B to date for EHR incentive program

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that 2,000 hospitals and 41,000 physicians have received $3.12 billion in incentive payments for the meaningful use of certified electronic health records (EHRs).

Sebelius’ report on the most up-to-the-minute stats on the EHR incentive program sets the scene for the imminent release of the meaningful use stage 2 proposed rule.

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“Health IT is the foundation for a truly 21st century health system where we pay for the right care, not just more care,” she said Feb. 17 at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Health Science Institute in Kansas City, Mo., where she discussed the growth of health IT professional jobs to improve patient outcomes and the economy.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has paid $3.12 billion in incentives to physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers who have started to meaningfully use EHRs to improve the quality of patient care. In January alone, CMS provided $519 million to eligible providers.

Sebelius also cited results from a survey conducted by the American Hospital Association and reported by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT which found that the percentage of hospitals that had adopted EHRs has more than doubled to 35 percent from 16 percent between 2009 and 2011. And 85 percent of hospitals said they intend to take advantage of the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments by 2015.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of health IT jobs is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, a much faster pace than the average for all occupations through the same time period.

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The administration has launched workforce training programs, including through 82 community colleges and nine universities nationwide. As of January, 9,000 community college students have been trained for health IT careers and another 8,706 students have enrolled.

As of February, participating universities have enrolled 1,200 students and graduated nearly 600 post-graduate and masters-level health IT professionals, with over 1,700 expected to graduate by the summer of 2013.