Money for tech adoption beginning to materialize

Financial incentives designed to help providers adopt healthcare technology are starting to materialize, according to a new report. The joint findings were released Wednesday by the Foundation for eHealth Initiative, a non-profit group focused on promoting quality, safety, and efficiency through electronic medical records and standards, and the Health Strategies Consultancy, a think tank and consulting firm focused on the commercialization of new medical technology.

The 28-page report, "Financial Incentives: Innovative Payment for Health Information Technology," examines existing incentives being used to further technology adoption by provider organizations. The report is available for free.

"Financial incentives are a recurring theme in terms of ways to increase broader diffusion of IT," said Sheera Rosenfeld, Health Strategies senior analyst and lead author of the report. "We felt more information was needed to identify incentives, explain what is out there, and how it works. Incentives can help providers promote healthcare technology adoption, improve quality and patient safety, and reduce medical errors."

The report takes a close look at different types of incentive models already in place, including:

- Payment differentials rewarding clinicians and providers for technology adoption

- Cost differentials to encourage consumers to see clinicians and providers that have adopted technology

- Direct reimbursement to providers and clinicians providing interactive consultations

"The point (of the report) was to try and understand the financial incentive space, because there was a very limited amount of information available," said Rosenfeld. "When people talk about incentives, they think about grant or revolving loan programs. That is one chunk of it, but this report takes aim at the point-of-care delivery system for payers and providers and the relationships between employer coalitions and health plans that can be used to drive adoption and incentivize people to go in that direction."

While organizations such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Foundation for eHealth are receiving attention for their financial incentive programs, Rosenfeld said the Health Resources and Service Administration and the National Library of Medicine are also heavily active in these programs as well.

"It is encouraging to see organizations with healthcare technology financial incentive programs," said Rosenfeld. "But funding is limited, and we need to build upon existing programs (to gain traction). Getting funding is a challenge, and a deliberate effort is needed to leverage existing programs ... We need organizational stakeholders to take a position to adopt healthcare technology and improve quality. Financial incentive programs can make a difference."

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