If doctors and hospitals get their paperwork in by the deadline for the first year, they may be eligible to get another incentive payment in the second year as well, he explained.
"That ($3.12 billion) is a significant number," Smith said. "I know more than a year ago when CMS (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid) scored ... they were thinking between $1 and $4 billion could go out the first year. So I think $3 billion is close to reasonable expectations. That number indicates things are going in the right direction."
Sebelius said 85% of hospitals report that they intend to take advantage of the incentive payments by 2015. The money is funded under the HITECH Act provisions of the 2009 Recovery Act.
Health information technology and healthcare executives anxiously await the release of the proposed rule dictating meaningful use criteria for Stage 2, which is expected on Tuesday.
“Health IT is the foundation for a truly 21st century health system where we pay for the right care, not just more care,” Sebelius said in a media statement. “Health care professionals and hospitals are taking advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to begin using smarter, new technology that improves care and creates the jobs we need for an economy built to last.”
Sebelius made the announcement while touring the Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Health Science Institute in Kansas City, MO. The institute is symbolic because it is one of many sites gearing up to train more students for health IT careers, as jobs in those specialties increase by an estimated 20% from 2008 to 2018.