Sunday, October 4, 2009

Progress on "Meaningful Use"

Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for HIT reports on the up-to-date progress that has been made to define “meaningful use” as it applies to the HITECH Act. The Act will provide incentive payments to doctors and hospitals that adopt and meaningfully use health IT.

Eligible physicians, including those in solo or small practices, can receive up to $44,000 over five years under Medicare or $63,750 over six years under Medicaid for being meaningful users of certified electronic health records. Hospitals that become meaningful EHR users could receive up to four years of financial incentive payments under Medicare beginning in 2011, and up to six years of incentive payments under Medicaid beginning in October 2010.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) is charged with coordinating nationwide efforts to implement and use the most advanced health information technology along with the electronic exchange of health information.

ONC is working with CMS to officially designate what constitutes “meaningful use”. As a result of the HIT Policy Committee meetings and recommendations, and feedback from more than 200 constituent groups, CMS is going to publish a formal definition of the term “meaningful use” for the purpose of receiving Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments. The definition is expected to be published by December 31, 2009 and in 2010, the public will be able to comment on the definitions.

ONC is also going to present programs to help smooth the transition process for the adoption of EHRs. As Dr. Blumenthal points out, there are some providers particularly providers with small or already stretched physician practices or in the case of small rural hospitals that may find the path toward meaningful use arduous. To others, who would just prefer to stick with the status quo, it may seem like an unwanted intrusion. We believe that the time has come for coordinated action to reduce adverse events, prevent the loss of patients’ lives, delay improper treatments, reduce unnecessary procedures, and in the end, lower costs in healthcare.