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HHS delays stage 2 meaningful use requirements

To encourage faster adoption of EMRs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services delayed the Stage 2 requirements for Medicare and Medicaid EHR Meaningful Use Incentive Programs from 2013 to 2014.

According to the Nov. 30 announcement, physicians and hospitals who adopted the Stage 1 standards in 2011 may qualify for incentive payments in 2011 and 2012.  Eligible physicians may receive as much as $44,000 under the Medicare incentive program, and $63,750 under the Medicaid program.

Under the previous requirement, physicians who began participating in the Medicare EHR incentive program in 2011 would have to meet new standards in 2013.  If they began participation in 2012, they could wait until 2014 to meet these new standards and still qualify for the same incentive payment.

While the AMA supported the delay for Stage 2 requirements, it encouraged the HHS to continue evaluating Stage 1 and work on increasing the number of physicians participating in the programs before finalizing requirements for Stage 2.

Along with greater outreach efforts to doctors, hospitals, and vendors, the government is building a nationwide network of 62 Regional Extension Centers.

A CDC survey found that 52% of office-based physicians in the U.S. plan to take advantage of the incentive payments available through Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

The CDC data also show the percentage of physicians who have adopted basic electronic health records in their practice has doubled from 17 to 34 percent between 2008 and 2011 (with the percent of primary care doctors using this technology nearly doubling from 20 to 39%).

News rules go into effect Jan. 1, 2012

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