Medicaid providers face barriers to "meaningful use"

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will spend nearly $425,000 over two years on a study to identify barriers to Medicaid providers meeting electronic health records (EHR) "meaningful use" criteria. Focus groups of eligible Medicaid providers will be established, including providers that have adopted an EHR, providers that have not adopted an EHR, and a dental focus group.

AHRQ has a history of engaging state Medicaid programs in a variety of ways, according to Erin N. Grace, MHA, senior manager of Health IT at AHRQ. "AHRQ recognizes the potential positive impact of health IT and HIE [Health Information Exchange] to improve quality of care for Medicaid and its beneficiaries, and the unique barriers and challenges for Medicaid agencies to engage in health IT and HIE," says Ms. Grace.

In 2007, AHRQ issued a contract to provide technical assistance for health IT and HIE in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). "Since that time, AHRQ has worked closely with CMS [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] and other federal and national partners to deliver a variety of technical assistance for Medicaid and CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program] agencies trying to engage in health IT and HIE efforts," says Ms. Grace.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, the health IT landscape has changed dramatically, says Ms. Grace. "These changes have had a particularly significant impact on Medicaid agencies, and ultimately, on Medicaid providers," she says.

While there are potential barriers to adoption and meaningful use of health IT for all providers, AHRQ and CMS were interested to know if there are additional barriers that might be unique to Medicaid providers, says Ms. Grace.

"Therefore, with input from CMS, AHRQ has funded the study of these potential barriers to help inform future stages of meaningful use," she says. Medicaid directors are currently overseeing the ongoing operations of EHR incentive programs, adds Ms. Grace, and are working to help their providers meet the meaningful use criteria.

"Information from this study can help them better plan their programs to address specific barriers that the Medicaid agency might be able to address," she says. "Medicaid directors will be able to target interventions to the specific needs of their providers."

Contact Ms. Grace at (301) 427-1580 or erin.grace@ahrq.hhs.gov.