Details of new programs from four major commercial insurers to encourage meaningful use of electronic health records may still be fuzzy, but the moves are important, says David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology.

In an interview with Health Data Management, Blumenthal notes that the government officially published the final meaningful use rule on July 28 and "here we are a week later and we've got payers showing up and making a commitment to try to support meaningful use."

Aetna Inc., Highmark Inc., UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint Inc. will align their pay-for-performance programs with federal meaningful use criteria, among other initiatives. In some cases, physicians who meet a payer's P4P criteria and demonstrate meaningful use will receive a higher P4P payment; in other cases the payment won't rise but demonstrating meaningful use will become a criteria for getting the P4P payment (see story).

Blumenthal acknowledges the process of getting payer announcements was hurried, but is the start of an effort to bring private sector incentives in line with the federal meaningful use program initiatives. "It's a big step for UnitedHealth to redo its contracts across the nation," he notes.

It will take time for insurers to figure out exactly how they will reward meaningful use, but Blumenthal says he has no doubt about their commitment.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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