Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Defining "Meaningful Use"

ARRA authorizes CMS to provide reimbursement incentives to physician and hospital providers who are successful in becoming “meaningful users” of an electronic health record. These incentive payments will begin in 2011 and gradually phase down. Starting in 2015, providers are expected to have adopted and be actively using an EHR in compliance with the “meaningful use” definition or they will be subject to financial penalties under Medicare.

The Meaningful Use Workgroup met on June 16, 2009 and presented their recommendations to the HHS Health IT policy Committee. The Workgroup’s presentation reflects the diverse ideas and contributions from the workgroup members and also builds upon the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics public hearing that discussed “meaningful use”.

Progressing towards the ultimate goal requires:

  • Using EHRs to make significant and measurable improvements in population health through a transformed healthcare delivery system
  • All patients to be fully engaged in their healthcare
  • Providers to have real-time access to all medical information and tools to ensure quality and safety, to improve access to care, and eliminate healthcare disparities
  • Privacy and security protections to be in place
  • Key information generated in the delivery of care to be digitized

The recommended definition of “meaningful use” will depend on the healthcare setting. Some features and capabilities will be recommended as required in an ambulatory setting before similar functions are expected to be widely used in the hospital. This is due to the availability of the technology in these different settings as well as the potential impact of these features on the health of the population served.

A notice to be published in the June 18th Federal Register, seeks comments no longer than 2,000 words to be submitted by June 26th at 5pm on the workgroup’s draft recommendations for the term “meaningful use”.

Stakeholder feedback is desired as to whether the recommended timeline is overly aggressive based on the current state of technology and the demands on new provider workflows, or not challenging enough to result in significant transformation in light of the declining level of Medicare incentives in future years. In addition, further information on the June 16th meeting is available at

Send comments to, subject line “Meaningful Use”. Written comments may also be submitted to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 200 Independence Ave, SW, Suite 729D, Washington D.C. 20201. Attention: HIT Policy Committee Meaningful Use Comments.

For additional information including any requests for a hard copy or faxed copy of the draft description, call Judith Sparrow, 202-205-4528, or email