MedPAC: EHR incentive participation, payment rates low

The number of eligible hospitals and professionals registered to participate in the electronic health record incentive program, as well as the number of those successfully attesting is lower than expected, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which met in Washington, D.C., April 5.

MedPAC expressed concern that while participation rates have been climbing, they remain low, particularly for small independent hospitals and physician practices. In addition, the percentage of participants that actually have demonstrated Meaningful Use and received incentive payments lag behind. According to MedPAC, 66 percent of hospitals have registered to participate in the program, but only 16 percent have been paid incentive bonuses. The rates for physicians are worse; only 25 percent have registered and only 6 percent have received incentive payments.

The Commission also expressed interest in monitoring the EHR program to see if the systems were creating efficiencies and cost savings.

MedPAC, the independent agency created to advise Congress on issues affecting Medicare, has long been a proponent of EHR adoption to improve care delivery, and keeps a close eye on EHR developments, a fact the Commission pointed out not only in its presentation last week, but also in its latest report to Congress, submitted in March.

In the report, MedPAC expressed concern that the high costs of EHRs was having a financial impact on physicians, and recommended that Medicare payment rates for outpatient office visits in freestanding physician offices and outpatient departments be equalized to help compensate.

The commission also encouraged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to consider incorporating quality measures that use data from EHRs and patient registries; claims-based process measures provide "important but limited information about the quality of care."

To learn more:
- read the report to Congress (.pdf)
- here's MedPAC's presentation at the meeting (.pdf)