The EHR Incentive Program and Meaningful Use

Over the past year and a half, the healthcare industry has been buzzing about “Meaningful Use.” Oral health providers have been hearing the stories and want to know how they can get involved. Henry Schein has worked hard to keep up-to-date on the program details and worked closely with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to learn as much as possible. We are passing that information on to you.

The EHR Incentive Program

In 2009, the U.S. federal government signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as part of the stimulus package to help improve the economy. Part of ARRA was the Health Information Technology Act, known as the HITECH Act. It provides funding to eligible providers who adopt an electronic health record (EHR). The HITECH Act is designed to improve the quality, safety, cost and efficiency of healthcare by engaging patients and their families in their own care. In addition, the HITECH Act will help reduce health disparities, improve care coordination, improve population and public health and ensure privacy and security for personal health information.

The HITECH Act created the EHR Incentive Program to help healthcare providers adopt electronic health records. There are two paths under the EHR Incentive Program—one for Medicare and one for Medicaid. Most dentists will qualify under the Medicaid path with a requirement to have a minimum 30 percent of Medicaid encounters. However, there are a few specialty dentists that will qualify under the Medicare Program. (See Notable Differences between the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.)

What is Meaningful Use?

In order to ensure that the EHR Incentive Program is achieving its goals and improving the quality of care, CMS has established stages of electronic health record adoption. Each stage asks the eligible professional (EP) to prove that they are using a certified EHR in a meaningful manner. The criteria, otherwise known as Meaningful Use, establish metrics that EPs must meet to qualify for payment in any given year.

The first year of adoption, known as the A/I/U year, provides $21,250 in incentive funding for EPs. That means providers are required to simply acquire, implement or upgrade to certified software. This year is meant to give dentists time to select the right certified EHR for their needs. There is no requirement during the A/I/U year to show Meaningful Use of the certified software. Stage One criteria were released in 2010 and establish the Meaningful Use requirements for the second and third payment years. The second year requires EPs to meaningfully use their certified EHRs for 90 consecutive days for a total incentive payment of $8,500. In the third year, EPs are required to meaningfully use the EHR for all 365 days of the year for an incentive payment of $8,500. (Review the full Stage One Medicare and Medicaid Meaningful Use Requirements.)

Stage Two criteria should be released in the next few months and take effect in 2014. There are no oral health-specific Meaningful Use criteria measures in either Stage One or Stage Two, although the oral health community, including Henry Schein, is working to have dental-specific criteria included in Stage Three. The total potential payment for an eligible provider over the course of six years is $63,750 and EPs must begin the program by 2016 to receive the full funding.

If an eligible professional does not typically perform a required meaningful use metric in the normal course of practice, he or she may qualify for an exclusion from that requirement. This is particularly true of oral health providers who do not typically do things like record vital signs such as height, weight and blood pressure; calculate BMI; track ethnicity; and so on.

Certified EHR Technology

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs require the use of certified EHR technology that has standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria adopted by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Certified Health IT Product List includes all of the products on the market that have been certified for participation in the program. Henry Schein has several products that meet these criteria. We encourage you to contact a representative today at 1-800-983-5908 to learn more.

Author: Nate Nelson
Published: 08/30/2012
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