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Meaningful Use Attestations Climb

May 7, 2012
by Jennifer Prestigiacomo
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ONC still to address long-term and specialty care
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The number of providers who have received incentive payments for the meaningful use of certified EHR technology has reached more than 93,000, said David Muntz, principal deputy national coordinator of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) at the HCI Executive Summit on May 6, held at the World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fl. During this address, Muntz said that physician adoption of EHRs has more than tripled since 2002, climbing from 17 percent to 57 percent in 2011.

Muntz spoke about the federal progress of the EHR incentive program
, as well as areas of progress that needed to be made in the national health IT landscape during his keynote address at HCI Executive Summit, an intimate gathering of industry-leading CIOs, CMIOs, and federal policy and health IT leaders. Muntz, who was formerly the senior vice president and CIO of the Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System, was appointed to the second-highest position at ONC in January.

Muntz gave a progress report on the state of EHR adoption, stating that adoption of basic EHRs has doubled since 2008, growing from 17 percent to 34 percent in 2011, and the share of hospitals using EHRs has more than doubled from 16 percent to 35 percent. He added that there was $22.5 billion available to healthcare providers in the form of incentives. More than 225,000 providers are registered to achieve meaningful use through the Medicare or Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which he said was a strong indicator of future attestations. These figures he quoted are from data briefs from the National Center for Health Statistics.

David Muntz

Federally-funded regional extension centers (RECs) have been popular, Muntz noted, with more than 132,000 primary care physicians (PCPs) (comprising more than 40 percent of PCPs in the nation) working with RECs to achieve meaningful use. “The RECs have been particularly successful in the rural areas,” said Muntz. RECs are working with 963 Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and 85 rural hospitals, all of whom have 25 beds or less.

EHR adoption of office-based physicians of all ages has been growing at an overall upward slope, Muntz showed. Even though that physicians over the age of 65 were not as anxious to adopt EHR technology as their younger counterparts, they were still adopting at a similar pace. Muntz said that ONC was looking at the age gaps to help determine a communication strategy to close the gaps.

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Muntz urged Summit attendees to not just stand on the sidelines of the Stage 2 comment period. “If you don’t comment on the good things—the things you like—and your opinion is unspoken, then people will only pay attention to those who do complain,” said Muntz. He added that the government “listens to everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Muntz said that even though specialty areas like long-term post acute care, behavioral health, and other specialty areas have been excluded from meaningful use incentive programs so far, the ONC is very concerned about addressing these areas. “It’s clear that benefit [of health IT] accrues to everybody, and does the government have a role to play in long-term care?” asked Muntz. “The answer is ‘yes,’ but the question is as a funder or convener? I can’t really make a commitment to you, but we absolutely have a keen interest in it.”

Muntz posited that if the industry can show the value of health IT in these specialty areas, there shouldn’t be a question as whether or not to invest in them. “I really encourage developing a value model that can be used across the nation,” he said.