WASHINGTON and NEW YORK – About 45,000 office-based physicians, including nearly all physicians who practice at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and half of office-based pediatricians, may be eligible for up to $63,750 over six years to improve and maintain their health information technology (HIT) systems because of their participation in Medicaid, according to a new analysis by GW researchers funded through the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative.

The new report, “Boosting Health Information Technology in Medicaid: The Potential Effect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” examines the Medicaid HIT adoption incentives contained in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). The 2009 law included about $49 billion in investments in HIT, including financial incentives for health care providers who treat Medicaid or Medicare patients and who can demonstrate meaningful use of technology. This study, the first to map the potential impact of the Medicaid provisions on physicians’ access to incentive funding, underscores the importance of the Medicaid amendments to the successful transformation of the nation’s health information infrastructure. Tens of thousands of physicians who care for millions of low-income Medicaid patients will be eligible for federal incentive funding to help them establish, upgrade and operate electronic health record systems to help improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.

Beginning in 2011, office-based physicians whose patient mix includes at least 30 percent Medicaid beneficiaries are eligible for up to $63,750 over six years, as long as they are able to demonstrate “meaningful use” of HIT. A lower 20 percent threshold can be used in the case of pediatricians. Physicians who predominantly practice at FQHCs and other settings can qualify if 30 percent of their patient base is characterized as “needy,” including those covered by Medicaid, those who receive uncompensated care and patients who are charged income-related sliding scale fees. GW researchers estimate about 15 percent of all the office-based physicians in the nation would qualify for the Medicaid HIT incentives, including nearly 99 percent of FQHC physicians. If all qualifying physicians apply for the Medicaid incentives and receive the maximum level of payments, the federal government would invest more than $2.8 billion in HIT.

“The ARRA Medicaid incentives offer a critical first step in the transformation of health care practices on which millions of Medicaid beneficiaries rely,” noted GW’s Professor Leighton Ku. “Successful implementation will depend on comprehensive guidance from HHS as well as ongoing technical assistance to both states and providers.”

“Health centers have historically faced many challenges in acquiring and implementing HIT,” said Julio Bellber, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation. “The opportunity provided by the ARRA incentives is significant and ongoing support is crucial if health centers and their patients are to derive the full benefits promised by HIT adoption.”

“Boosting Health Information Technology in Medicaid: The Potential Effect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” can be viewed online here.

The research was conducted by GW faculty at the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative, located in the Department of Health Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. The Collaborative is a multi-faceted academic training and research initiative created in 2007 through a gift from the RCHN Community Health Foundation.

About the RCHN Community Health Foundation
The RCHN Community Health Foundation (RCHN CHF) is a New York-based not-for-profit operating foundation dedicated to supporting and benefiting community health centers (CHCs) in New York state and nationally. The Foundation develops and supports programmatic and business initiatives related to community health center access, pharmacy and health information technology through strategic investment, research, outreach, education, and coalition building. For more information about RCHN CHF, contact Chief Operating Officer / EVP Feygele Jacobs at (212) 246-1122, ext. 712, or fjacobs@rchnfoundation.org or visit www.rchnfoundation.org.

About The George Washington University Medical Center
The George Washington University Medical Center is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary academic health center that has consistently provided high-quality medical care in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, since 1824. The Medical Center comprises the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the 11th oldest medical school in the country; the School of Public Health and Health Services, the only such school in the nation’s capital; GW Hospital, jointly owned and operated by a partnership between The George Washington University and a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.; and the GW Medical Faculty Associates, an independent faculty practice plan. For more information on GWUMC, visit www.gwumc.edu.