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What is meaningful use of an EHR

On December 30, 2009, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released documents shedding light on what physicians and hospitals must do to qualify for electronic health records (EHR) incentive payments under the HITECH Act. To qualify for incentives, physicians and hospitals must be using “certified EHR technology” in a “meaningful manner.”
These documents provide the clearest picture yet on what features providers and hospitals need to look for in their EHR technology. They also tell us how that technology needs to be used to meet the definition of meaningful use during the Stage 1 (2011) EHR adoption period.

Among other things, these documents show us:
  • How physicians and hospitals can achieve meaningful use in Stage 1;
  • What software features your EHR technology needs to become certified; and,
  • What the final rulings mean for CCHIT certification.

CMS defines “meaningful use” as using an EHR under these general topics:
  • Improving quality, safety, efficiency, care coordination, population and public health;
  • Reducing health disparities;
  • Engaging patients and their families; and,
  • Ensuring adequate privacy and security protections for personal health information

For the first time, CMS has also outlined specific measurements for how the government will determine if an EHR is being used in a meaningful manner for the Stage 1 (2011) adoption year. Updated definitions of meaningful use for Stage 2 (2013) and Stage 3 (2015) EHR adoption periods will be released in the year before those periods begin.