Meaningful Use for Medicare Incentive Payments

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released instructions for providers to qualify for incentive payments for the adoption of electronic health record (EHR) technology.  Provisions are in place for eligible professionals  to receive up to $44,000 in Medicare incentive payments.  Medicaid incentive payments are also available; however, this will not be covered in this article.

In order to qualify, eligible professionals must demonstrate that they are using an EHR in a meaningful way.  These Meaningful Use requirements have been structured for implementation in three stages.  Stage 1 criteria began in 2011, while Stages 2 and 3 are still in the development stage and will build on Stage 1 initiatives.  For that reason, we will focus on Stage 1 in this article.

Stage 1 Meaningful Use

Stage 1 is intended to establish a starting point by focusing on the capture of health data in a coded format.  The data is intended to assist in tracking clinical conditions and communicating those conditions for the purpose of coordination of care, measurement of clinical quality, and reporting of public health information.

To participate in the program and receive incentive payments, the eligible professional must first purchase a certified EHR and register with CMS.  For eligible professionals, there are 25 objectives/measures that are divided into a core set of 15 and a remaining 10 measures in the menu set.  To successfully meet Meaningful Use all measures must be met in the core set, while five can be chosen from the remaining 10 measures in the menu set.  Exclusions are defined under each measure specification for those cases in which it is impossible for an eligible professional to meet a specific measure.

The final step is to establish that you met Meaningful Use requirements for a defined period by attesting on the CMS secure website.  During an eligible professional’s first year of meaningful use, he or she should complete a 90-day reporting period before attesting. This can be any consecutive 90-day period in the first calendar year of participation in the program.  Thereafter, the attestation is provided for each full year of meaningful use.

Getting Started

If you have purchased an EHR, or are planning on purchasing one, here are some quick tips for getting starting on the path to meeting Meaningful Use and earning your Medicare incentive payments.

  1. Determine if you are an eligible professional
  2. Make sure your EHR, or the one you plan to purchase, is certified to meet meaningful use
  3. Review and familiarize yourself with the Meaningful Use Core and Menu Set Measures
  4. Before beginning the formal process of meeting Meaningful Use, you must Register for the Program
  5. Begin your 90-day reporting period
  6. Attest to meaningful use

How Does the Incentive Get Paid?

The Medicare Incentive Payment Schedule outlines how the payments will be paid out over the next several years.  It should be noted that those providers who practice in defined Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) are eligible for a 10 percent increase in their annual incentive payments.

Where Do I Find More About Meaningful Use?

Additional information can be found at the CMS EHR Incentive Program website.  In particular, the Frequently Asked Questions is updated regularly and can be very helpful.