CMS: Meaningful Use registration numbers lowest since last summer

Participation in the Meaningful Use incentive program carries on, with more than 83 percent of eligible hospitals and 49 percent of eligible professionals attesting, and close to $18 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments issued as of November 2013, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The agency, reporting at the Jan. 14 Health IT Policy Committee meeting, noted that the percentages of attesting hospitals were highest for large hospitals and small rural ones; the lowest were for small urban hospitals. Officials said that CMS had paid slightly more than $17.77 billion to 334,081 hospitals and healthcare providers.

Still, only 3,081 eligible professionals and 30 hospitals registered to participate in the Medicare program in November, the lowest totals since last July. Participation for the Medicaid program hit its lowest point since August, with 2,175 eligible professionals registering.

Robert Anthony, deputy director of the Health IT Initiatives Group at CMS' Office of e-Health Standards and Services, said the agency expects its numbers to pick up in January and February, calling November and December typically slow months.

According to draft estimates shared for December registration by Anthony, roughly 3,500 EPs and 70 eligible hospitals signed up for the Medicare incentive program, while around 3,500 EPs also signed up for the Medicaid program.

Meaningful Use attestation has been uneven, according to research published last summer in Health Affairs, with smaller and more rural hospitals struggling to meet the incentive program's required thresholds.

"Our findings suggest that as Stage 2 criteria are implemented, policymakers should pay particular attention to smaller and critical-access hospitals to ensure that they are able to meet the meaningful-use standards," the researchers said. "Without the full participation of these hospitals, the nation will not be able to achieve the larger policy goal of sharing data across providers and ensuring that clinical information follows patients wherever they receive care."

To learn more:
- here is the meeting agenda
- browse through CMS' slide deck