Understanding Meaningful Use

For those outside the health care industry, you may not be familiar with the term ‘meaningful use’ in conjunction with health care. According to www.cms.gov, “Meaningful Use is a a set of criteria for the use of EHR (Electronic Health Record) systems to improve patient care by health care providers”. The end goals of meaningful use include improved population health, coordination of care, improved safety, and patient engagement. In an effort to motivate providers to implement meaningful use, incentives were established by the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act for adopting Meaningful Use criteria starting in 2012, with the possibility of penalties for failure to achieve the standards by 2015.

So, in more basic terms, in order to receive incentives and avoid penalties, provider must prove they are “meaningfully using” their EHR technology by meeting certain thresholds established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicade Services (CMS).

But meeting this criteria is no easy task. The program includes three stages providers must complete in order to receive their incentives, each with increasing requirements. To begin, providers have to meet requirements for a 90-day period in their first year, then meet Stage 1 requirements for the full second year. Starting in 2014, they can move on to Stage 2 requirements which must be met for two full years. Stage 3 will start in 2016. Whether you participate for a fiscal or calendar year depends on the type of provider you are.

While the participation is challenging, the rewards are significant. As of Feb. 2014, CMS says it has distributed more than $19 billion dollars in reimbursement incentives. Over 440,000 providers are participating with approximately %88 receiving incentive payments.

The program is on track to achieving its goals, according to recent surveys. There has been significant increase in the use of EHR systems by office-based physicians, with nearly 80% of offices using some sort of EHR system in 2013 according to a National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. But most importantly, over 78% of respondents said that EHRs “overall, enhanced patient care” was a clinical benefit to increased use EHR systems.

For more information on the requirements of the meaningful use program, we encourage you to visit http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/Meaningful_Use.html.

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