Research: Docs in the Medicaid EHR incentive program lag behind Medicare counterparts

Physicians participating in the Medicaid EHR incentive program are progressing more slowly than those participating on the Medicare side of the program, creating disparities, according to a recent study published in Health Services Research.

The researchers, Dawn Heisey-Grove, a public health analyst with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and Jennifer King from Aledade, wanted to identify physician and practice characteristics that are "markers" for success for Meaningful Use. They conducted a retrospective analysis of 865,370 physicians participating in Stage 1 of the Meaningful Use program between 2011 and 2013, using a number of data sources, including information from ONC's regional extension center (REC) program, the National Committee of Quality Assurance patient-centered medical home certification program and the American Medical Association. 

They found that by 2013, eight of 10 physicians registered in the Medicare part of the program had achieved Meaningful Use, compared to just one-third of the physicians registered in the Medicaid incentive program. The strongest predictors of meeting Meaningful Use were the receipt of technical assistance (79 percent more likely) and delivery reform participation (34 percent more likely).

"Continued outreach and technical assistance that demonstrate strong interaction between meaningful use of health IT and delivery reform many facilitate further adoption of both initiatives," the researchers concluded.

Other studies have corroborated these findings, determining that lower resource providers and those that serve the poor are less likely to adopt and successfully use EHRs, further widening the digital divide. For instance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported in 2013 that while 70 percent of community health centers, which typically treat the uninsured and those on Medicaid, had adopted some type of EHR by November of that year, only 9 percent had achieved Meaningful Use despite support from a REC.

The RECs, which were created by the same statute that created the Meaningful Use program, met their goals in in helping practices and other providers adopt EHRs. However, funding for the 62 RECs ran out in 2014.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract

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