On August 5, 2010, the Health Industry Forum of Brandeis University, together with Health Affairs, hosted a meeting among Dr David Blumenthal, PhD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Marilyn Tavenner, Principal Deputy Administrator, CMS, and several Forum members from the private sector, to discuss steps the private sector is taking and what further roadblocks must be addressed to achieve EHR adoption and meaningful use.

Most noteworthy, several senior officers from the nation's largest health insurers took the opportunity at the meeting to announce that their organizations will offer financial and other incentives to hospitals and physician practices that implement and make meaningful use of EHR systems. Executives from WellPoint, Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and Highmark insurance plans each announced varying levels of incentives. For example, Wellpoint plans to fully incorporate the federal meaningful EHR use standards into its pay-for-performance standards, accepting attestations in a manner similar to the process established by CMS. UnitedHealth announced that it will provide additional incentives to high-performing providers who use EHR and who qualify for the federal EHR incentives.

Both WellPoint and UnitedHealth will offer financing to assist providers and physicians to adopt EHR technology. UnitedHealth's program will offer zero percent financing to physicians adopting its proprietary system until the federal incentive payments start. Wellpoint intends to offer financing for hospitals in rural, critical access and medically underserved areas to help avoid what it believes may become a new class of "haves" and "have nots" in American healthcare access.

Both Aetna and Highmark plan to implement forms of provider contracting and quality measurement standards tied to EHR adoption and use, with a gradually increasing role played by EHR use in achieving pay-for-performance standards.

Although many payors are currently focusing on "carrots" to encourage providers to adopt EHR technology, a few organizations already have begun to use the "stick" of cutting providers from their network for failing to adopt EHR and/or reduce the use of paper prescriptions. According to BNA's Health Care Daily Report, Dr. Blumenthal stated at the conference, "The federal government has gotten the ball rolling but the private sector needs to keep it rolling and make it sustainable."