The government released new rules on Tuesday that further define “meaningful use” of electronic medical records for physicians and hospitals. Earlier this year, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) authorized incentive payments to physicians for the use of EHRs including $44,000 through Medicare and $63,750 through Medicaid. But achieving meaningful use was confusing to stakeholders. Until now.
The original proposal was criticized as too restrictive as physicians were required to meet every one of 25 objectives in order to receive their incentive payment. Under the final rules issued yesterday, doctors must meet 15 specific requirements, plus five additional requirements chosen from a list of 10 objectives. For hospitals, the initial number is 14 specific requirements, as well as five more from 10 listed objectives.
“Core objectives comprise basic functions that enable EHRs to support improved health care. As a start, these include the tasks essential to creating any medical record, including the entry of basic data: patients’ vital signs and demographics, active medications and allergies, up-to-date problem lists of current and active diagnoses, and smoking status,” according to David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Marilyn Tavenner, R.N., principal deputy administrator of the CMS in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Examples of the menu options include “capacities to perform drug-formulary checks, incorporate clinical laboratory results into EHRs, provide reminders to patients for needed care, identify and provide patient-specific health education resources, and employ EHRs to support the patient’s transitions between care settings or personnel.”
Blumenthal and Tavenner say that “the meaningful use rule strikes a balance between acknowledging the urgency of adopting EHRs to improve our health care system and recognizing the challenges that adoption will pose to health care providers. The regulation must be both ambitious and achievable.” While all of this will continue to be somewhat confusing and time consuming for the physician, the government will be “establishing a nationwide network of Regional Extension Centers to assist providers in adopting qualified EHRs and making meaningful use of them.”