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The Department of Health and Human Services released final requirements for hospitals and health care providers to meet in order to qualify for incentives during the second stage of the agency’s program to expand the use of electronic health records (EHR).

The requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released the following requirements:

  • Make clear that stage two of the program will begin as early as 2014. No providers will be required to follow the Stage 2 requirements outlined today before 2014.
  • Outline the certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they use will work, help them meaningfully use health information technology, and qualify for incentive payments.
  • Modify the certification program to cut red tape and make the certification process more efficient.
  • Allow current “2011 Edition Certified EHR Technology” to be used until 2014.

Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, doctors, health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt and meaningfully use certified electronic health record technology.

More than 120,000 eligible health care professionals and more than 3,300 hospitals have qualified to participate in the program and receive an incentive payment since it began in January 2011. That exceeds a 100,000 goal set earlier this year, the agency said. That includes more than half of all eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals and 1 out of every 5 eligible health care professionals.

“The changes we’re announcing today will lead to more coordination of patient care, reduced medical errors, elimination of duplicate screenings and tests and greater patient engagement in their own care,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.