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CHIME Survey Shows Hospitals Making Progress With EHR Incentives

Some 26% of CIOs say their organizations have qualified to receive stimulus funding under the HITECH portion of ARRA within the first full year of the program, according to a recent survey by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

Of all respondents, 13% say their organizations have actually received funding in the first year of the program, which began October 1, 2010. The majority of those healthcare organizations have collected funding from their states’ Medicaid programs, while 4% of all respondents indicated they had received payments under the Medicare program.

Some 198 of CHIME’s members responded to the Internet-based survey in mid-September. Respondents, from both multihospital systems and stand-alone community hospitals, represent 656 hospitals, or about 13% of the nation’s facilities.

In general, respondents were optimistic about their chances of qualifying for stimulus funds in stage 1. About two-thirds (68%) say they expect to qualify for stimulus funding for stage 1 of the program, but not until federal fiscal year 2012 (which ends September 30, 2012) or fiscal year 2013. That compares with 58% who anticipating qualifying during that period in CHIME’s March 2011 survey.

About 93% of CIOs expect their organizations to achieve the meaningful use of EHRs and incentive funding for stage 1 during the first three years of the program.

More than one-half of all respondents said their organizations have registered for the stimulus funding program, a precursor for attesting that meaningful use objectives have been achieved and qualifying to receive funds. By contrast, only 15% of facilities had registered in March, when CHIME conducted its last survey on meaningful use

CIOs’ concerns continue to evolve as the stimulus funding program completed its first year of operation. For example, nearly two-thirds (66%) of respondents still have concerns related to meeting meaningful use requirements; down significantly from the nearly 90% of respondents who said they had such concerns in March. Capturing and submitting data for quality measures remains the most frequently cited concern of CIOs.

Organizations that have qualified for stimulus funding also expressed concerns about the uncertainty over time delays in receiving payments after they have successfully attested to achieving meaningful use of EHRs.

For example, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis is still awaiting payment through the program after attesting on August 18, says CIO Joanne Sunquist, who added that payments generally have been received by other facilities six to eight weeks after facilities have attested. “It would be nice to know, because any time you’re looking for government money for anything, cash flow is often uncertain,” she says.

Medical Center Health System, Odessa, Texas, received payment through the Texas Medicaid program in August, says CIO Gary Barnes, FCHIME, CHCIO. Better communication about the stimulus funding program is essential in helping healthcare organizations gain access to funding, he says, adding, “The $1.5 million in stimulus payments are critical to Medical Center Health System, and are actually important in helping us to operate in the black.”

Other survey findings include the following:

• Respondents appear to be settling into their implementation strategies to achieve the meaningful use of EHRs. Some 58% now say their current IT strategy and existing applications will enable their organizations to qualify for meaningful use, compared with 40% in March.

• Respondents believe a delay in the beginning of stage 2 of the meaningful use program would increase their likelihood of qualifying for stimulus funding in that phase. Some 25% of respondents said they hope to achieve stage 2 meaningful use objectives, but only if there is a delay in the original start date of October 1, 2012. Some 32% said they expect their organizations to achieve stage 2 objectives, with or without a delay, and 35% said they couldn’t make a prediction at this time.

• Some 34% of respondents said they had lingering questions about the program. Many of those questions revolve around whether funding for the program will be maintained despite the changing political winds in Washington and in the face of budget cuts anticipated to achieve reductions in the federal budget deficit.

Source: The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives