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Digital Divide in Meaningful Use Payments, Study Finds

December 14, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a report from the federal Government Accountability Organization (GAO), acute care hospitals were 1.7 times more likely and children's hospitals were 1.6 times more likely to have been awarded a Medicaid EHR incentive payment for 2011, when compared to critical access hospitals. The report compared the various hospitals that have received meaningful use payments in 2011, finding overall 1,964 hospitals and 45,962 professionals were awarded a total of approximately $2.7 billion in Medicaid EHR incentive payments for 2011.

The report’s authors say hospitals with the highest number of total beds were twice more likely to have been awarded an incentive payment than hospitals with the lowest number of total beds. They also found approximately 50 percent of the hospitals accounted for 80 percent of the Medicare incentive payments awarded to hospitals.

More than half of those hospitals with payments were nonprofit hospitals (57 percent) and most (57 percent) were not members of a health system chain. Three-fifths (62 percent) were located in urban areas and four-fifths (80 percent) were acute care hospitals. In terms of regions, most were in the South (46 percent), while fewest were located in the Northeast (15 percent).

In terms of eligible professionals, the numbers were similar in terms of geographic locations. Although the lowest number of payments was received in the Midwest rather than the Northeast. Also, almost half (47 percent) had signed agreements to receive technical assistance from a Regional Extension Center.

According to the GAO, “Identifying the number and characteristics of providers that participated during the first year of the Medicaid EHR program can provide important information on whether certain types of providers were more likely than others to participate.”

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