Over the past two years, Oregon’s Health Information Technology Extension Center (O-HITEC) has been working with Oregon healthcare providers to overcome the challenges of adopting and implementing electronic health records.
This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that healthcare providers who partnered with Regional Extension Centers, like O-HITEC were more than twice as likely to receive an incentive payment under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.
The GAO’s report, Electronic Health Records: Number and Characteristics of Providers Awarded Medicare Incentive Payments for 2011, mined 2011 data from a variety of government sources. It offered insights into those providers and hospitals that are making current progress, but could also provide an early indication of those who may be vulnerable to payment reductions in later years of the program.
“Oregon’s numbers are extraordinary,” said Dawn Bonder, OCHIN O-HITEC’s Director. “Currently we are serving 3075 primary care providers and about 400 specialists. 87.5% of OCHIN O-HITEC members are on a certified EHR product and on their way to achieving Meaningful Use (MU). 16% of our members are meeting Meaningful Use and we expect that percentage to increase to 35% – 40% by the end of the year. OCHIN O-HITEC is also assisting all 25 Critical Access Hospitals in Oregon and 3 Rural Hospitals, with 50% using a certified EHR and 14% having achieved MU.”
“The GAO’s findings reinforce what we already know –working with Regional Extension Centers enables clinicians to decrease the barriers to adopting and implementing EHRs,” said Abby Sears, OCHIN’s CEO, “We provide unbiased support in translating complex health information technology issues into practical solutions that fit a provider’s unique circumstances.”
Nationally, during the first year, 2,802 hospitals and 141,649 professionals registered for the Medicare incentive program, a required step to receive incentive payments. In 2011, 761 hospitals and 56,585 health care professionals nationwide were awarded Medicare EHR incentive payments for their efforts to use electronic health records to meaningfully improve patient health.
Professionals who are eligible for the incentives include Doctors of Medicine, Dental Medicine or Surgery, Optometry, Osteopathy and Podiatric Medicine, and Chiropractors. The GAO analysis of Medicare EHR payments to those providers found that:
- The largest proportion (32 percent) of providers was located in the Southern states while the lowest percentage (17 percent) was located in the Western states.
- A significant majority (89 percent) of providers were in urban areas.
- Half (50 percent) were specialty practice physicians and over one-third (38 percent) were general practice physicians.
- Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) did not previously participate in CMS’s incentive program for electronic prescribing.
The GAO also analyzed program participation among hospitals, including acute care and critical access hospitals with a variety of ownership type, size and location. Results indicated that:
- Critical access hospitals were less than half as likely to earn incentives as acute care hospitals.
- Hospitals in the top third of size (measured by number of beds) were 2.4 times more likely than hospitals in the bottom third to earn an incentive payment.
- Nonprofit and for-profit hospitals were 1.1 and 1.5 times more likely than government-owned hospitals, respectively, to receive an incentive payment.
- Only one in ten (12.2 percent) of eligible rural hospitals were awarded Medicare EHR incentive payments
“In 2010 Oregon already had a high EHR penetration rate which made our goal of reaching 2700 providers a stretch. Today, we can boast one of the highest EHR penetration rates in the nation,” said Bonder. The goal of OCHIN O-HITEC continues to be to work with our public and private partners to prepare Oregon healthcare providers for healthcare transformation.”