The federal government today awarded its first payments from a Medicare program designed to push hospitals and individual health care providers to adopt electronic health records. Three Massachusetts physicians received payments starting at $18,000. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, long a leader in electronic records, received $2.57 million.
Doctors and hospitals are under pressure to get on board or face penalties come 2014. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has pledged to help with up to $27 billion in incentives approved as part of the 2009 stimulus package.
The money is not a grant for building a future system but a reimbursement for what the providers have already achieved. Hospitals and individual providers had to meet a long list of requirements showing that they had "meaningful use" of their system, including the ability to input demographic and medical information about patients, exchange data with other providers, provide patients with electronic access to their record and submit disease surveillance data to public health agencies.
Chief Information Officer John Halamka said Beth Israel Deaconess has been a leader in electronic health records since the late 1970s, when renowned clinical computing experts Howard Bleich and Warner Slack built one of the first electronic lab and hospital information systems in the country. The hospital built its first electronic outpatient health record in 1985.
Halamka said he we told that the hospital, which invests $4 million annually in its clinical computing system, was the first in the country to meet federal requirements for the incentive program.
"We buy technology that is mature and robust, but we also build technology that is innovative and not available in the marketplace," Halamka, who is also chief information officer for Harvard Medical School, said. "This combination of building and buying enabled us to reach the goals quickly.
The state Medicaid program also will provide incentives in a program slated to begin in late summer. Nationally, more than 300 awards were given out yesterday. Providers can apply for the Medicare money annually until 2014.
"Today’s announcements are steps on the right path – toward the health IT system America needs, which will save lives, save money, and save time," Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a press release.
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|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
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