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Financial Incentives Available for Migration to Electronic Health Records

September 4, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 11, 2011

Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, healthcare providers have the opportunity to receive financial incentives for implementing the use of electronic health records (EHR). Healthcare professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals that serve Medicare and Medicaid participants and display meaningful use of EHR are eligible for the financial incentives. The funding for the incentives is being provided through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The incentive programs promotes the meaningful use of certified EHR to improve patient care, as well as reward and support providers as they transition into new technology within the nation’s healthcare system.

The public health-related objectives that demonstrate meaningful use of EHR include the electronic exchange of syndromic surveillance data, reportable laboratory reports, and immunization registry data. By providing more complete, accurate and timely information, the submission of these data provides significant benefit to public health’s ongoing disease surveillance efforts. The inclusion of these public health objectives within the EHR incentive program represents a rare opportunity for private health care to be financially rewarded for supporting public health’s data needs.

The electronic exchange of health information is one of the greatest benefits of EHR migration. Electronic health records help streamline the healthcare process by improving care coordination, increasing patient engagement, and decreasing the opportunity for medical errors. Electronic health records allow providers to have more current patient files, and allow them the opportunity to update patient information more quickly. They allow providers to keep more accurate medical records and notes, as well. This also adds an element of flexibility because electronic files can be accessed outside of the office environment in case of an emergency, as well as shared and cross-referenced with other providers easily with the patient’s permission.

The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH), which administers Georgia’s Medicaid program, has awarded more than $6.4 million to six hospitals and 12 professionals around the state who were among the first to qualify and implement EHR initiatives. David A. Cook, DCH Commissioner, projects that more than $400 million incentive payments will be rewarded during the next 10 years.

For more information about public health-related EHR incentives and to begin the registration process, please contact meaningfuluse@dhr.state.ga.us.