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CMS EHR Incentive Programs

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In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) became law. Included in this law was the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HITECH Act allocated over $19 billion to increase the use of electronic health records by clinicians and hospitals. Through the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) the CMS EHR Incentive Programs were developed and initiated.

The EHR Incentive Programs allow eligible professionals and eligible hospitals to receive incentive payments for EHR adoption through Medicare or Medicaid. There are three stages to the program that began in 2011 and will continue through 2015, creating a path for participants to become meaningful users of EHR certified technology. Although the programs are voluntary, those who have not adopted by 2015 will see Medicare reimbursement penalties.

Meaningful Use

Eligible Professionals and eligible hospitals must register and attest in all three stages of the program to receive maximum incentives. Successfully attesting means you have met all the required objectives and measures.

Stage 1 – Began in 2011 and sets the basic functionalities for EHRs. The requirements are focused on providers capturing patient data and sharing that data either with the patient or with other healthcare professionals.

Stage 2 - Beginning in 2014 this stage will use advanced clinical processes. The requirements are focused on health information exchange between providers and promote patient engagement by giving patients secure online access to their health information.

Stage 3 – Still in the planning phase, it will continue to expand meaningful use objectives to improve health care outcomes.

Standards and Policy

The ONC is an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. It was created by an Executive Order in 2004 and then legislatively mandated in the ARRA. The HITECH Act charged the ONC to adopt initial health IT standards and design an incentive program for the adoption and meaningful use of EHR certified technology. The ONC created two Federal Advisory committees, the HIT Policy and HIT Standards committees to recommend and advise the ONC on the program's development.

The HIT Policy Committee is charged with making recommendations to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on a policy framework for the development and adoption of a nationwide health information infrastructure, including standards for the exchange of patient medical information. The HIT Standards Committee is charged with making recommendations to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange and use of health information.

Solutions, Tools, and Products

CMS and ONC Resources

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Related Terms and Acronyms

  • ARRA - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • CMS – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • EHR – Electronic Health Record
  • HHS – Department of Health and Human Services
  • HITECH Act - Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act
  • ONC – Office of the National Coordinator



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Last Updated: February 26, 2013