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HHS Report Shows Strong Growth in Use of Electronic Health Records

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

May 22, 2013 -- More than half of all doctors now get Medicare or Medicaid incentive payments for using electronic health records, according to a report federal officials released last week. But Republicans say medical professionals should not just use the records in their own offices but also should exchange them with other providers.

Republican lawmakers, backed by a business and insurance company alliance known as the Health IT Now Coalition, have been pushing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in recent months to end Medicare and Medicaid IT bonus payments for providers who do not share electronic medical data with other providers.

The response from HHS officials has been to point to the progress that has been made since the Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for providers that adopt electronic records was included in the 2009 stimulus law (PL 111-5).

The recent report noted that HHS has exceeded its goal of having half of physicians' offices and 80 percent of eligible hospitals using electronic health records by the end of 2013.

HHS officials showed charts indicating how the use of medical records has grown: The percentage of physicians and other medical professionals using an electronic health system was 17 percent in 2008 and is currently about 55 percent.

For hospitals, about 9 percent used electronic records in 2008, but more than 80 percent have established and used electronic records.
As a result, more than 291,000 eligible professionals and more than 3,800 eligible hospitals have gotten incentive payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Doctors have received a total of nearly $6 billion, while hospitals have received almost $9 billion.

But Republicans say that some of that money may have been wasted or unnecessary. Six senators produced a 27-page report criticizing the program and demanding more oversight. Those senators are John Thune of South Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming.

  • HHS release
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