Oklahoma Hospitals, Physicians Receive Funds for EHR Systems

Article excerpt

Over the past four months, Oklahoma hospitals and physicians have received a little more than $25 million in Medicaid incentives to put their electronic health record systems in place.

That money, made possible through the federal stimulus program, is helping providers adopt a new way of operating that can be expensive and time-consuming. According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers the state's Medicaid program, 430 providers and 22 hospitals have received incentives as of this week.

Medicare incentives are available as well - up to $44,000 over five years for physicians who adopt an EHR in 2011 or 2012. Physicians can receive incentives through only one program, but hospitals may receive both Medicare and Medicaid incentives. Medicaid incentives are arriving earlier to support more of the initial costs of adopting an EHR.

The incentives are a help, providers say, because adopting an EHR requires much more than the cost of hardware and software.

"As a physician, we understand the value of what it means to have this information portable, and the impact of that on the quality and safety of care that we provide," said Dr. Brian Yeaman, a Norman family physician and chief medical informatics officer at Norman Regional Health System. "But the reality is that it's very cumbersome and difficult at times to accommodate a computer while you're trying to care for a patient. There's a technical hurdle to overcome, but there's also a period of time where you have to alter your productivity and see fewer patients to allow the system to be installed and get everyone up to speed. So those incentives are an attempt to cover all of those associated costs, including lost work time, particularly in the clinic setting."

Norman Regional "went live" with its EHR three years ago, said John Meharg, director of health information technology. The system cost about $20 million, and he said the hospital should be able to recoup nearly half of that cost through incentives. In the next few weeks, it should receive its Medicaid payment of $1.1 million, he said. By July 1, the hospital plans to be compliant with Medicare's Stage 1 "meaningful use" - 24 measures a hospital must meet in order to receive its incentive, he said.

Incentives are based on whether a provider or hospital has installed an EHR that is certified and whether it meets "meaningful use." The Stage 1 criteria for meaningful use focus on electronically capturing information in a coded format, using that information to track key clinical conditions, communicating that information for care coordination purposes and initiating the reporting of clinical quality measures and public health information. Stage 2 and Stage 3 meaningful use requirements will expand the use of EHRs and focus on achieving improvements in quality, safety and efficiency. …