HHS could create health IT incentives for specialists

Advisory group recommends looking at specialists, small hospitals

A group advising the Health and Human Services Department is considering if medical specialists, small hospitals and other organizations should have special incentives to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) under the economic stimulus law.

“How we deal with specialists is an important topic,” George Hripcsak, bioinformatics chairman at Columbia University and co-chairman of the Meaningful Use Workgroup that's advising HHS, said Aug 14.

Hripcsak presented the workgroup’s recommendations to the Health Information Technology Policy Committee, which is advising HHS on how to apply the health information technology provisions of the economic stimulus law. HHS will do a rule-making later this year.

Under the law, Congress allocated $45 billion in incentives to doctors and hospitals that buy and the "meaningful use" certified EHRs. The policy committee was convened to advise how to define “meaningful use.” Under the meaningful use framework currently proposed, providers would have to collect, and demonstrate exchange of, relevant patient medical data and medical outcomes data.

The Meaningful Use Workgroup will be collecting feedback from physicians, hospitals and other providers on the timing and substance of the proposed framework, Hripcsak said.

One of the workgroup’s goals is to identity possible gaps in the framework that might affect medical specialists, small practices, small hospitals and safety net providers, and to develop strategies to mitigate those gaps, he said. Public input also is needed to develop recommendations for patient-supplied medical information, he added.

In addition to developing requirements for 2011, 2013 and 2015, the workgroup is considering a process by which it can continue to update “meaningful use” criteria.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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