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CMS’ latest numbers show that registration for the Medicare and Medicaid programs is down about 12 percent from March. What gives?
Just when you thought physicians were getting used to EHRs and meaningful use, new figures released from CMS seem to indicate otherwise.
Newly released data from CMS show a drop in eligible professionals (EPs), a broad category that includes all non-hospital healthcare providers, who registered for the Medicare and Medicaid meaningful use programs in April.
Specifically, the total number of EPs who submitted registrations for the Medicaid and Medicare EHR incentive programs in April was 12,228, down by 12 percent from March. Although the number of eligible professionals who registered for the Medicare incentive program increased by 13 percent in April. However, the increase was offset by a 36 percent decline in eligible professionals who registered for the Medicaid incentive program, iHealthbeat noted.
Steven Waldren, former practicing physician and the American Academy of Family Physicians’ director of its Center for Health IT, says the numbers by themselves aren’t any indication physicians are losing interest in the EHR incentive program. However, they do suggest a couple of things.
For one, because physicians would have to start on their 90-day reporting period in October to qualify for EHR incentives to be paid for 2012, those who didn’t sign up for the program in the first quarter of 2012 may have decided to wait.
“So they might figure they should not start until January,” Waldren told Physicians Practice.
However, MGMA consultant Derek Kosiorek said he believes the registration numbers will “rise significantly” as we reach the end of the summer “because if Medicare eligible EPs begin their reporting period after October 2, they will not be eligible to receive the maximum amount offered.”
Waldren noted a small spike in Medicaid numbers in February happened to coincide with Kansas and Colorado launching their state Medicaid EHR incentive programs at that time.
“The numbers are fairly what I would expect,” said Waldren. “I think all the metrics show the program is making an impact.”
Jonathan Handler, physician turned CMIO of voice-technology vendor M*Modal, told Physicians Practice he wasn’t particularly surprised by the numbers.
“Navigating the maze required to determine and demonstrate eligibility, understand the requirements, and register for participation is a daunting task, perhaps too daunting for some eligible participants,” said Handler. “Those already in a position to readily meet meaningful use measures, those who already have a certified EHR in place, may have been the first to register, and we may be seeing a slowdown if those yet to register have a bigger gap to fill to meet meaningful use.”