California Department of Health Launches EHR Incentive Program

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California's Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) today announced the launch of the first phase of its Medi-Cal Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the program will deliver to eligible hospitals and health care professionals as much as $1.4 billion in federal incentive payments over the next decade.

According to DHCS, participating health care providers and hospitals will, during the program’s first year, be rewarded for adopting, implementing, or upgrading certified EHR technology. Rewards for demonstrating Meaningful Use of the technology will follow in subsequent years, DHCS says.

DHCS expects approximately 250 hospitals to apply and qualify for the program. To facilitate the application process for eligible hospitals, the agency initiated a three-week "pre-qualification" period in September. During that time, hospitals could submit their eligibility packages for review. Thirty-eight hospitals did so, representing more than $128 million in potential incentive payments. Of this amount, approximately $64 million will be distributed by the end of 2011, DHCS reports.

To participate in the program, healthcare providers must first register through the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and then enroll in the DHS-hosted state-level registry.

For more enrollment information and links to the registry, click here: http://medi-cal.ehr.ca.gov/