2019 EHR Incentives Focus on Referrals & Access to Records


By Justin Sims

August 9, 2018 — Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its Final Rule for hospital EHR incentives for 2019. Within this rule, the Promoting Interoperability Programs are all about giving providers and patients better access to digital medical records, especially in support of care transitions. And the data supporting the ongoing challenges with paper are staggering:


●     Only 14% of physicians share digital patient data outside of their organization[1]

●     63% of doctors still rely on fax as their primary method of communicating[2]

●     Up to 50% of physicians do not know if their patient actually saw a specialist[3]

●     46% of faxed referrals never result in a scheduled patient visit[4]


The good news is that the reporting burden is now going to much much lower for hospitals—the previous 16 measures have been reduced to just 6.  The bad news is that a lot is riding on these remaining 6, and the cost of failure is high (~2% of Medicare reimbursements). So beginning in 2019, 80% of the “points” focus on just 3 measures and the proportions of:

  1. Outbound referrals (and care transitions) that are sent electronically

  2. Inbound referrals, in which certain portions of the health record (meds, problems and allergies) are reconciledwith the receiving EHR

  3. Patients that are provided with electronic access to their health record

In the words of Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, at the August ONC Interoperability Forum, the goal with these new incentives is to “help make every doctor’s office a fax-free zone by 2020”.

To learn more about how to prepare for these new EHR incentives, without reading all 2,593 pages of the new rule book, we invite you to download our new “implementer’s guide” here.



[1]Health Affairs: Despite Substantial Progress in EHR Adoption, Health Information Exchange and Patient Engagement Remain Low In Office Settings. By Michael F. Furukawa, Jennifer King, Vaishali Patel, Chun-Ju Hsiao, Julia Adler-Milstein, and Ashish K. Jha 




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