CMS recently rolled out two support programs that are part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), both of which are geared to help modernize America’s health care delivery system by encouraging doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to adopt and meaningfully use health information technology.

“We can bring America’s health care system into the 21st century by adopting electronic health records and using electronic prescribing systems,” said CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick, MD. “Today’s announcements are steps on the right path—toward the health IT system America needs, which will save lives, save money, and save time.”

On May 19, 2011, the Medicare EHR Incentive Program issued the first round of payments totaling $75 million to providers who signed up in the first 2 weeks of the program. Medicaid EHR incentive programs are being implemented on a state by state basis and, since January, 15 states have initiated such programs. To date, more than $83 million in incentive payments has been given to qualified Medicaid providers.

The second program looks to help providers phase in the use of electronic prescription technology. The Electronic Prescribing Incentive Program announced proposals for new flexibilities, including exemptions from the payment adjustment for providers who plan to participate in the program but who face certain barriers to using electronic prescribing systems or meeting program requirements that may be beyond their control. The program provides financial incentives, including payment adjustments beginning January 1, 2012, for eligible providers to encourage electronic prescribing.