Eligible physicians still face MU readiness challenge

Ninety-one percent of physicians nationwide said they were eligible for federal EHR incentives in 2011, but only 10 percent intended to apply for the program, falling on the low side of what the federal government had anticipated, according to a new report, scheduled to appear in the May issue of Health Affairs.

Before the program started, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the EHR Incentive Programs, had estimated that 10 to 36 percent of Medicare-eligible professionals and 15 to 47 percent of Medicaid-eligible professionals would demonstrate meaningful use in 2011, the report said.

The new study was based on a 2011 survey of 3,996 physicians, according to its lead author, Chun-Ju Hsiao, a health services researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hsiao and her co-authors, Sandra Decker, Esther Hing and Jane Sisk ,said their results show that “a great discrepancy exists” between physicians’ intentions to apply for incentives and their readiness to meet even two-thirds of the core objectives for meaningful use. “The 85 percent of physicians likely to be eligible for Medicare incentives face more pressure to meet the requirements,” they said.

Among physicians intending to apply, about 21 percent were ready with the 10 core capabilities, the survey found. In Wisconsin, the state with the highest percentage ready with those capabilities, 32 percent of all physicians reported that degree of readiness, the report stated.

The authors said the results of their study could help guide the regional extension centers, which aim to help with physician readiness. "The low level of current readiness illustrates the challenges in meeting the federal schedule for financial incentives," they added.

According to CMS, during 2011, the first year of the incentive programs, almost 124,000 eligible professionals, including physicians, had registered for Medicare incentives, and the agency had paid nearly $275 million to 15,000 participants. Medicaid meaningful-use incentives totaled about $220 million and went to approximately 10,500 physicians.

Read the full study here.

Follow Diana Manos on Twitter @DManos_IT_News.

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