The Electronic Health Record Incentive Program

September 16, 2010
Lisa Schulmeister

Final rules are released, with $27 billion available.

On July 13, 2010, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released final rules that list eligibility criteria that healthcare facilities must meet in order to participate in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. Over the next ten years, $27 billion will be made available to healthcare facilities that use EHRs to improve quality, safety, and efficiency, and reduce healthcare disparities. The EHR incentive program also hopes to increase electronic communication between patients and healthcare providers, improve the coordination of patients' care, and use data to improve healthcare quality and outcomes. The incentive program requires that personal health information is protected and patients' privacy is maintained in EHR systems.

The type of EHR and technology is not specified in the incentive program, thus allowing healthcare facilities to choose what technology will be used and how it will be used. Facilities have the flexibility to decide if centralized computers will be used, if portable computers will roll to the bedside, or if hand-held computers or other devices will be used as its EHR system.

The move to EHRs is long overdue. Patient outcomes likely can be improved through the aggregation of large datasets and an examination of patient outcomes. Widespread implementation of EHRs also offers the potential for new roles for nurses. Who better than nurses to help design and implement EHR systems?