Electronic health records incentive rules eased

August 1, 2010

The final "meaningful use" rule for adopting electronic health records gives physicians and hospitals some flexibility in meeting objective necessary to qualify for federal cash incentives.

The final "meaningful use" rule for adopting electronic health records (EHRs) gives physicians and hospitals some flexibility in meeting objectives necessary to qualify for federal cash incentives. The rule, drafted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), divides the initial objectives into 2 categories. The first specifies 15 core objectives that providers must meet in payment years 2011 and 2012 to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid financial incentives. However, candidates can defer up to 5 of the 10 objectives in the second category to beyond 2011 and 2012 and still qualify. CMS also eased some requirements.

Eligible physicians who meet required objectives could receive up to $44,000 from Medicare over 5 years or $63,750 from Medicaid over 6 years. Physicians who fail to adopt EHRs can anticipate penalties on reimbursements.

The rule includes the formula for the calculation of the incentive payment amounts, a schedule for payment adjustments under Medicare for covered professional services and inpatient hospital services provided by eligible professionals, and other program participation requirements.