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The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide financial incentives for the "meaningful use" of certified EHR technology. To receive an EHR incentive payment, providers have to show that they are “meaningfully using” their certified EHR technology by meeting certain measurement thresholds that range from recording patient information as structured data to exchanging summary care records. CMS has established these thresholds for eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals.

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs include three stages 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. CMS has recently published a proposed rule for Stage 3 of meaningful use which focuses on the advanced use of EHR technology to promote health information exchange and improved outcomes for patients.

Eligible professionals participate in the program on the calendar years, while eligible hospitals and CAHs participate according to the Federal fiscal year. The Stage 3 proposed rule proposes to change the EHR reporting period so that all providers would report under a full calendar year timeline.