The Administration’s health information technology (HIT) activities and how they will impact small health care practices was the focus of Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), testimony before the House Small Business Subcommittee.
HITECH Act. The HITECH Act includes $2 billion in funding to ONC to lay the groundwork for adoption and meaningful use of HIT through infrastructure programs. Physicians, including those in solo or small practices, can receive up to $44,000 in incentive payments under the Medicare program for being meaningful users of certified electronic health record (EHRs). The HITECH Act includes grant programs as well as education and technical assistance opportunities to help providers, especially those in small practices, overcome barriers to adoption. Funds will be distributed through Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to eligible professionals, physicians, and hospitals that are “meaningful EHR users.”
Qualifying for incentives. According to Blumenthal, HHS generally expects that under Medicare, “meaningful EHR users” would demonstrate: (1) meaningful use of a certified EHR; (2) using the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of care; and (3) reporting on clinical quality and other measures using certified EHR technology.
Grant programs. In addition to the incentive payments, the HITECH Act authorizes grant programs that ONC can implement to help providers and communities adopt and become meaningful users of EHRs. Three of these authorized grant programs include: (1) HIT Regional Extension Centers; (2) State Grants to Promote Health Information Exchange, or HIE; and (3) Developing IT Professionals in Health Care.
HIT Extension Program. The HITECH Act authorizes a HIT Extension Program to make assistance and education available to all providers, but with priority given to: (1) individual or small group practices that are primarily focused on primary care; (2) public or not-for-profit hospitals or critical access hospitals; (3) federally qualified health centers; and (4) entities located in rural and other areas that serve uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved individuals.
Statement by David Blumenthal, National Coordinator of the Office of Health Information Technology, HHS, to the House Small Business Subcommittee, June 24, 2009