WHAT IS MEANINGFUL USE?

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act rewards hospitals and physician practices for implementing a certified electronic health record (EHR), but you have to prove healthcare information technology (HIT) is making a difference. It’s all about meaningful use.

EHRs provide many benefits for both providers and patients depending on how they are used. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentive Programs defines the standards for meaningful use and allows eligible providers and hospitals to earn incentive payments by meeting specific criteria. Their goal is to promote the spread of electronic health records to improve health care in the United States.

The benefits of the meaningful use of EHRs include:

  • Complete and accurate information. With electronic health records, providers have the information they need to provide the best possible care. Providers will know more about their patients and their health history before they walk into the examination room.
  • Better access to information. Electronic health records facilitate greater access to the information providers need to diagnose health problems earlier and improve the health outcomes of their patients. Electronic health records also allow information to be shared more easily among doctors’ offices, hospitals, and across health systems, leading to better coordination of care.
  • Patient empowerment. Electronic health records will help empower patients to take a more active role in their health and in the health of their families. Patients can receive electronic copies of their medical records and share their health information securely over the Internet with their families.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 specifies three main components of Meaningful Use:

  1. The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing.
  2. The use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of healthcare.
  3. The use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.

Simply put, “meaningful use” means providers need to show they’re using certified EHR technology in ways that can be measured significantly in quality and in quantity. For more information, see CMS EHR Meaningful Use Criteria Summary.

STAGES OF MEANINGFUL USE

The criteria for meaningful use will be staged in three steps over the course of the next five years.

  • Stage 1 (2011-2012) | Data Capturing & Sharing | Sets the baseline for electronic data capture and information sharing.
  • Stage 2 (2014) | Advance Clinical Processes | Focuses on more rigorous health information exchange and incorporates electronic transmission of patient care summaries across multiple settings.
  • Stage 3 (2016) | Improved Outcomes | Improves the quality, safety and efficiency of health information leading to improved health outcomes and provides patient access to self-management tools.

HOW DO I MEET MEANINGFUL USE REQUIREMENTS?

The Medicare EHR Incentive Program

  • The Medicare EHR Incentive Program provides incentive payments to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and CAHs that demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology.
  • Eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 over five years under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. There’s an additional incentive for eligible professionals who provide services in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HSPA). To get the maximum incentive payment, Medicare eligible professionals must begin participation by 2012.

The Medicaid EHR Incentive Program

  • The Medicaid EHR Incentive Program provides incentive payments to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and CAHs as they adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology in their first year of participation and demonstrate meaningful use for up to five remaining participation years.
  • Eligible professionals can receive up to $63,750 over the six years that they choose to participate in the program.
  • The Medicaid EHR Incentive Program is voluntarily offered by individual states and territories. Check with your State Medicaid Agency for more information.

Stage 2 Meaningful Use

Certification criteria for Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use incentive is still being determined. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the release of the notices of proposed rule-making (NPRMs) for Stage 2. Learn more about the proposed rule.

Useful Links:

*Courtesy of CMS and healthit.gov.