Are you a meaningful user of electronic medical records? When do you plan to become one?

Dec. 8, 2009

“Meaningful use” is the term used in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH)section of ARRA (aka the stimulus bill).  It refers to a set of criteria required to receive incentive payments from either Medicare or Medicaid. 

“Meaningful use” is the term used in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH)section of ARRA (aka the stimulus bill).  It refers to a set of criteria required to receive incentive payments from either Medicare or Medicaid.  The notion is that over the five years of incentive payments, physicians will need to meet a series of benchmarks to demonstrate their meaningful use of an EHR.  The benchmarks will get more challenging in succeeding years.

It is up to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to finalize these benchmarks for meaningful use.  In this task, they will be guided by recommendations from the HIT Policy Committee.  The Committee issued their preliminary recommendations last July (see http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_10741_888532_0_0_18/FINAL%20MU%20RECOMMENDATIONS%20TABLE.pdf ).  CMS will now prepare the final recommendations for public comment and formal issuance, but it does not look like that will occur until the first quarter of 2010.

The recommendations for the 2011 meaningful use criteria will be likely to involve reporting on certain chronic health problems (diabetes, hypertension, and smoking).  Physicians will also be expected to use e-prescribing and computerized physician order entry (CPOE).  CMS will probably require physicians be able to provide patients with an electronic copy of their medical record.

Hospitals are also eligible for incentive payments and the recommendations include benchmarks for how to achieve meaningful use at the institution level.

The incentive payments are scheduled to start in 2011, so there is little time to prepare.  The vendor community is aware of these proposed measures, but given the timing, you should already be discussing how this functionality will be supported by your EHR.  For some systems, the functionality will come with a new release.  Preparing for that will require time and resources, and both are in short supply.

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