As of May 2012, more than 100,000 healthcare providers established electronic health records (EHR) that met federal standards and received incentives from the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive programs.

The goal (according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) was for 100,000 to have done this by the end of 2012. So, the objective will be surpassed.

EHR incentives are a good way to defray some of the costs of implementing a system while complying with regulations on adopting, implementing, upgrading and meaningfully using certified EHR technology to improve health care.

Eligible Professionals

The goal being realized so early means that health professionals in practices and hospitals have seen the potential of EHRs to reduce paperwork, eliminate duplicate procedures and protect patient information. Overall, EHRs provide a better patient experience.

Eligible professionals to receive the incentives include physicians, some physicists assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives. The incentive program was developed by the Health Information for Clinical and Economic Health Act of 2009.

EHR Incentive Disbursements

In fact, one of every five Medicare and Medicaid qualified professionals received an incentive for adopting an EHR. Specifically, over about $ 5.7 billion in total EHR Incentive Program payments were made. Over $ 3 billion of it came from Medicare and more than $ 2.6 billion came from Medicaid. This all took place from May of 2011, when the funds were first released, through May 2012.

What the incentives did was to really accelerate the adoption of this important technology upgrade by health care providers all over the US. There is also one other entity that helped make this possible and continues to assist healthcare providers in the EHR implementation process.

The Regional Extension Centers (RECs)

The ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) sponsored Regional Extension Centers (RECs) continue to play a big part in this effort. What these organizations do is to work with providers, especially in the rural areas, to make sure they meet the meaningful use criteria and qualify for the incentives.

In fact, over 133,000 primary care providers and 10,000 specialists have partnered with the RECs to overcome the barriers to EHR adoption. 70% of the providers are small practices in rural areas.

All healthcare providers need to implement an EHR system soon. Any help that is out there, such as the RECs, can be accessed. It makes sense to achieve those incentives while improving patient care in your practice.