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What is HITECH?

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law a $789 billion dollar economic stimulus package, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. Included in ARRA legislation is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, also known as HITECH. HITECH allocates $19 billion to hospitals and physicians who demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic medical records.

HITECH also provides funds for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology(ONCHIT). Originally founded in 2004, this office oversees health information technology (HIT) standards, implementation strategies and impact assessment. ONCHIT has set goals for “the utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014” and the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of information.”

What does HITECH mean to you?

Under HITECH, physicians can qualify for up to $44,000 in Medicare bonus incentives if they demonstrate “meaningful use” of an Electronic Health Record. The definition of “meaningful use” is still being worked out by ONCHIT but will likely include e-prescribing, chart sharing and quality of care measurements. Most professional EMR vendors participate in the public process by which “meaningful use” criteria are being discussed, and therefore their EMR application are assured to meet these criteria.

The charts below show the timeline for Medicare and Medicaid bonus payouts under HITECH. As shown in the first table, a physician who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of an EMR in 2011 would be eligible to receive $18,000 from Medicare for the first year and $44,000 total through 2015. Incentives are reduced for adoption after 2012. Physicians whose practices feature a high volume of Medicaid patients can qualify for up to $65,000 in incentives.

Beginning in 2015, physicians who elect not to use an EHR will be penalized, starting with a 1% Medicare fee reduction. Those who do not adopt an EHR after 2017 will face a 3% Medicare fee reduction.

What is the Health Information Technology Extension Program?

The HITECH Act also provides guidance and funding for establishing at least 70 regional centers to help promote EHR adoption. Regional centers will offer "technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to support and accelerate health care providers' efforts to become meaningful users of Electronic Health Records (EHRs)." Over 100,000 primary care providers will be supported by the regional centers.

An excerpt from the "Health Information Technology Extension Program: Regional Centers Cooperative Agreement Program" document "Support should specifically focus on helping providers select the highest-value option, defined as that which offers the greatest opportunity to achieve and maintain meaningful use of EHRs and improved quality of care at the most favorable cost of ownership and operation, including both the initial acquisition of the technology, cost of implementation, and ongoing maintenance and predictable needed upgrades over time." Learn more about the Regional Centers on the HHS Website.

Medicare HITECH Incentive Timeline

Hitech Medicare

Medicaid HITECH Incentive Timeline

Hitech Medicaid

e-Prescribe Bonus

Hitech Bonus

HITECH Policy Information:

Learn more about the HITECH Act, Learn more about ONCHIT, Follow the conversation about “meaningful use” on Twitter

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