Anticipation is building as the end of the year approaches when the gift of Meaningful Use will be unwrapped in greater detail. Meaningful Use is the driver for how the incentive eligibility will be defined for many providers and hospitals.

As a refresher, this all began with the passage of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) which included a provision called Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health or HITECH. HITECH provides funding for health information technology infrastructure, training, dissemination of best practices, telemedicine, inclusion of health information technology in clinical education, and State grants to promote health information technology.

Meaningful Use is the new standard in healthcare integration. In October 2009, Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), issued a statement which included the following:

“By focusing on 'meaningful use,' we recognize that better health care does not come solely from the adoption of technology itself, but through the exchange and use of health information to best inform clinical decisions at the point of care. Meaningful use of EHRs, we anticipate, will also enable providers to reduce the amount of time spent on duplicative paperwork and gain more time to spend with their patients throughout the day. It will lead us toward improvements and sustainability of our health care system that can only be attained with the help of a reliable and secure nationwide electronic health information system.”

This statement highlights the key features of Meaningful Use. There are three essential points being made about Meaningful Use and HITECH with one additional point not included in the statement.

  1. “…exchange and use of health information…”: To achieve Meaningful Use, patient data will need to be exchanged between relevant health care providers. Initially, the exchange or communication of patient information will focus on the following primary areas:

    • Problem list, medication list, allergies, test results among providers of care and patient authorized entities
    • Immunization registries
    • Syndromic surveillance data to public health agencies
  2. “…inform clinical decisions at the point of care…”: The emphasis here is on delivering quality reporting measures and, over time, demonstrates better performance in the delivery of care.
  3. “…reliable and secure nationwide electronic health information system…”: Security. What more needs to be stated. To foster greater exchange of patient data, HIPAA was strengthened with greater enforcement resources and higher penalties and standards when breaches occur.
  4. Use a certified EHR: To be eligible for the incentive payments, providers must use a certified EHR.

Meaningful Use is packaged on Interoperability of Patient Data, Quality Reporting in Delivering Patient Care, and Using a Certified EHR to Record Patient Information with a tight casing of Privacy & Security wrapped around it. Final regulations will be issued before the end of 2009, with a public comment period following the release. Real guidance on what the benchmarks will be required to receive the initial and subsequent payments will not be completed until probably the Spring 2010. Additional resources on Meaningful Use:

 

  • ONC site – Meaningful Use: Provides current status on the direction and offers a detailed matrix on Meaningful Use Objectives and Measures.
  • Federal Advisory Committee Blog: Highlights comments and opinions on Health IT Standards Committee activities and direction.
  • Health IT Buzz: Insights and direction from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
  • HL7Standards.com: Serves as a Healthcare Integration Resource Center for professional, managers, and directors driving healthcare standards and connected healthcare projects.
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