2011 EHR Incentive Programs Pay out +$2.5B with 4Q Increase but EP Participation Still Light

The December 2011 EHR Incentive Program report shows a strong fourth quarter in registrations and in payments.  However, participation remains strongest amongst the hospitals which also posted the strongest gains in registrations and in those receiving payments.

Eligible Hospital (EH) registration increased to 61.4% during the 4th quarter of last year.  This is up from 47% at the beginning of the quarter.  Eligible Professional (EP) registration is up to 33.9% of those eligible, still well under half.

The payment statistics are more telling. 32.9% of eligible hospitals have received payments in 2011 where only 5.6% of the eligible professionals had payments during 2011.
The CMS EHR Incentive Program paid out more than $2.5B dollars in 2011. Of that, EH’s received more than $1.9B and EP’s collected just less than $600M.   In total, EP’s collected about the same amount from the Medicare and Medicaid program. An individual EP can only register for either the Medicare or the Medicaid program.  Hospitals can register for both programs and most hospitals qualified for both programs which accounted for the vast majority of funds release to EH’s.

Looking at the payments for EP’s and EH’s by month, the EP participants showed a marked increase in payments in the fourth quarter from October on.  EH’s sharp rise started in September and continued through the end of the year.

Specialties receiving payments are broken out by CMS for the Medicare program only. The lion’s share of the payments continue to go to family practice physicians and internists who account for 42% of the total payments in 2011. Since the meaningful use measures were created for these groups, this result is not surprising. The EHR Incentive Program has yet to make any provisions for the speciality physicians and shows no inclination to do so in the Stage II meaningful use measures.

2012 is still the year that will determine if the EHR Incentive program will meet its goal of 75% participation by the EP’s. If that is to be the case, the number of EP’s participating will have to increase dramatically from December’s rate of about 8,000 new participants per month.