The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 includes financial incentives for healthcare providers that attain Meaningful Use (MU) with their EHR systems. As part of the ARRA, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act authorized the formation of HIT Regional Extension Centers (RECs). These centers will support physician practices in adopting EHR systems and using their current systems to achieve MU.
To receive an EHR incentive payment, providers have to show that they are "Meaningfully Using" their EHRs by meeting thresholds for a number of objectives. CMS has established the objectives for "Meaningful Use" that eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must meet in order to receive an incentive payment.
The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs are staged in three steps with increasing requirements for participation. All providers begin participating by meeting the Stage 1 requirements for a 90-day period in their first year of Meaningful Use and a full year in their second year of Meaningful Use. After meeting the Stage 1 requirements, providers will then have to meet Stage 2 requirements for two full years. Eligible professionals participate in the program on the calendar years, while eligible hospitals and CAHs participate according to the federal fiscal year.