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Georgia's Medicaid EHR Incentive Program: More Than a Powerful Prescription for Better Care

Georgia's Medicaid EHR Incentive Program: More Than a Powerful Prescription for Better Care

September 6, 2011

DCH Promotes Use of Electronic Health Records

The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) and its Office of Health Information Technology (HIT) have opened provider registration for the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. This federally funded incentive program is targeted to eligible health care professionals and hospitals and will serve two main goals: to promote the meaningful use of certified electronic health records (EHRs) to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care, and to reward and support providers as they transition into new technology within our nation's health care system.

"The use of health information technology is essential for providers to deliver better and lower cost care here in Georgia," said DCH Commissioner David A. Cook. "Through our Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, we project that we will issue incentive payments in excess of $400 million dollars to physicians, hospitals and other health care providers during the next 10 years."

Funding and support for the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs is provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Georgia's Medicaid EHR Incentive Program will be administered by DCH; CMS will administer the Medicare Incentive Program.

"Health care providers already using EHRs are clearly seeing the provider-patient benefits of this technology," said Kelly Gonzalez, DCH's Interim State Health Information Technology (HIT) Coordinator. "For them, patient workflow and administrative efficiencies are just the beginning of a powerful change in the way they render care and do business."

EHR Program Eligibility, Payments and Registration
Georgia's Medicaid EHR Incentive Program is open to eligible Medicaid professionals (physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and dentists) and eligible hospitals (acute care hospitals, critical access hospitals and childrens hospitals).

To receive the incentive payments, eligible professionals and hospitals must meet specific Medicaid patient volume thresholds as they adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology during their first year of participation. In subsequent participation years, eligible providers are required to demonstrate meaningful use of the technology – defined as how the certified EHR technology moves beyond being a digital medical chart into being a valuable tool to transform health care service delivery and therefore improve health outcomes.

Through annual incentive payments, eligible Medicaid professionals may receive up to a maximum of $63,750 during their six years of program participation. The incentive payment formula for eligible Medicaid hospitals is based on multiple variables and will be paid over three years of program participation.

Registration at the federal level (www.cms.gov/ehr) opened earlier this year. Registration at the state level (www.mmis.georgia.gov), which began on September 5, is also required. Once eligible participants have attested to meeting all program requirements and their applications have been approved, payments will be made within 45 days. The first payments are slated to begin in late September 2011.

To enable the authorized access, sharing and exchange of patient information contained in EHRs, DCH is facilitating the creation of a statewide health information exchange (HIE). The Georgia Health Information Exchange Inc. (GHIE) – a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization – will serve as the statewide HIE's governance body. When fully operational, the statewide HIE will connect health care professionals, hospitals, imaging centers, laboratories, pharmacies and more.

EHR Technical Program Assistance
To ensure that clinicians become adept and meaningful users of EHRs, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) has established more than 60 assistance centers throughout the United States. In Georgia, the National Center for Primary Care (NCPC), located at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, serves as the Georgia Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (GA-HITREC).

"GA-HITREC's mission is to use a community-oriented approach to assist Georgia providers with the selection, successful implementation and meaningful use of EHR systems. GA-HITREC is pleased to play a role in helping health care professionals to improve clinical outcomes and the quality of patient care provided," said Dominic Mack, M.D., Executive Director of GA-HITREC. "Our group purchasing plans and technical assistance are available statewide to providers participating in either the Medicaid or Medicare incentive programs."


About the Georgia Department of Community Health
The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) conducts the business of health care for Georgians. Through effective planning, purchasing and oversight, DCH provides access to affordable, quality health care to millions of Georgians, including some of the state's most vulnerable and underserved populations.

DCH is responsible for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids®, the State Health Benefit Plan, Healthcare Facility Regulation and Health Information Technology in Georgia.

David A. Cook serves as Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Health.

To learn more about DCH and its dedication to A Healthy Georgia, visit www.dch.georgia.gov.

To learn more about the Georgia Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, visit www.dch.georgia.gov/ehr.

Contact Information: 
Pamela A. Keene