NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Not Cashing In on Meaningful Use Incentives

February 26, 2015

President Obama's 2015 budget includes a 25 percent increase to the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) budget. The ONC, which determines how health information technology (HIT) is deployed, currently oversees products such as electronic health records (EHRs), mobile and telehealth technology, cloud-based services, medical devices, remote monitoring devices, assistive technologies and sensors.

At its inception in 2004, the ONC was intended to serve only as a "coordinator" of HIT. Yet, in 2009, it turned out to be the financier, certifier and regulator for a majority of HIT and backed by a 5-year $30 billion budget designated to entice hospitals, physician's offices and other medical facilities to install electronic health records (EHRs). With that, ONC now has authority to certify EHRs that qualify health providers for the incentive payments. Based on these facts, a 25 percent budget increase is not justifiable.

Despite ONC's authority and intentions, their efforts are not seeing results. "Meaningful use" of ONC-certified EHRs triggers incentive payments for medical professionals but they are not cashing in.

  • In 2014, only 3,154 eligible medical professionals had attested to the second stage of meaningful use to receive their payments for installing EHRs.
  • A 2015 SERMO survey found 55 percent of the nearly 2000 physicians surveyed would not attest to the next stage of meaningful use this year. 

In response to this, federal penalties have been levied against 257,000 physicians, 280 providers and 200 hospitals for not using EHRs "meaningfully." Why are doctors not using EHRs meaningfully? Doctors are learning the actual cost of installing EHRs includes loss of productivity, a cost the incentive payments do not compensate for.

Source: John R. Graham, "The National Health IT Czar does not need a big budget hike," National Center for Policy Analysis, February 25, 2015. 


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