We Can’t Wait: Faster Adoption of Health Information Technology

December 19, 2011
US Health and Human Services (HHS)

DECEMBER 19, 2011: HHS Announcement - US Health and Human Services (HHS) is encouraging faster adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) with a proposed initiative. Secretary Sebelius announced in this proposal that providers who adopt an ONC-ATCB certified EHR in 2011 will have until the end of February 2012 to meet Stage 1 meaningful use. Those who do meet the February deadline will also have until 2014, instead of 2013, to meet Stage 2 meaningful use. These providers will also qualify for 2011, 2012 and 2013 incentive payments before being required to move to Stage 2.

Under previous regulations, eligible providers that participated in the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs this year would have had to demonstrate meaningful use in 2013. Proposed revisions give 2011 participants until 2014 to demonstrate meaningful use.

In this proposal, there is no similar extension for those who postpone participation until 2012. They will still have to meet meaningful use in 2014 and will not qualify for 2011 incentive payments.

EHR Adoption Facts1

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide a financial incentive for the adoption and "meaningful use" of ONC-ATCB certified EHR technology. By meaningfully using an EHR, providers experience benefits that include reductions in errors; easy access to records; alerts for patients; clinical decision support; and e-prescribing.

Over 135,000 providers have registered for a Medicare or Medicaid EHR Incentive Payment as of October 31, 2011, indicating their intent to adopt and meaningfully use EHRs, and over $1.2 billion in EHR incentive payments have been made through the end of October.

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute’s Regional Extension Center has been able to enroll over 2500 providers since this program began. Of those enrolled 1572 have already attested to going live on an EHR and 142 have demonstrated meaningful use.

52 percent of office-based physicians report that they intend to take advantage of incentives provided through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. (National Center for Health Statistics, National Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey, 11/30/11).

Medicare and Medicaid combined have paid over $880 million in EHR incentives to hospitals eligible for both incentive payments for having adopted or meaningfully used EHRs.

The percentage of physicians who have adopted EHRs in their practice has doubled from 17 to 34 percent between 2008 and 2011 (National Center for Health Statistics, National Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey, 11/30/11), with the percent of primary care doctors using this technology nearly doubling from 20 to 39 percent.

Office-based physicians’ use of E-prescribing has increased from 0.8 percent in December 2006 to 40.2 percent in September 2011 (Surescripts).

1ONC Encourage Health IT Fact Sheet, retrieved on December 2, 2011 from

Click here for PDF version of the HHS announcement.