Health Care and Technology – What Is Meaningful Use?

Clinicians and staff in the DMU Clinic have been using electronic medical records since 2007. DMU Clinic was successful in meeting Meaningful Use criteria in 2012 for its eligible professionals in the Family Practice, Osteopathic Manual Medicine, and Foot and Ankle clinics.

Meaningful Use (MU) is a Medicare and Medicaid incentive program aimed at improving health care outcomes through financial incentives for the “meaningful use” of certified Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology. Eligible professionals who adopt certified electronic health records and meet established criteria that demonstrate “meaningful use” of the technology can receive incentive payments to help offset the costs for technology acquisition, infrastructure development and maintenance with the expectation that technology costs will be offset over time by operational efficiencies. 

CMS has defined three stages of Meaningful Use:   

  1. Electronic capture and sharing of health information in a structured format; improved privacy and security of patient information.
  2. Data aggregation and quality improvement at the point of care; exchange of information.
  3. Data use to impact outcomes; demonstrate improvements in quality, safety and efficiency; implementation of clinical decision support and patient self-management tools.

By providing incentive payments over a multi-year implementation period to help offset expenses of technology adoption and ongoing investments in IT infrastructure, CMS expects this incentive program will: 

  • Stimulate adoption of EHR technology;
  • Motivate providers to make “meaningful use” of electronic records to improve patient care;
  • Build the foundation for improved EHR connectivity and data exchange capability; 
  • Boost adherence to HIPAA security standards;
  • Create a core of standardized quality measures;
  • Build provider’s capability to meet other external reporting requirements by capturing needed data consistently and in the needed format; 
  • Improve care by giving providers access to more robust, structured and standardized data during patient care encounters and enabling them to make more informed treatment decisions;
  • Reduce duplicative care by giving providers access to testing and treatment information from other settings of care;
  • Reduce potential harm to patients caused by dangerous drug interactions; and
  • Improve outcomes by engaging patients and their families in their care and treatment by making patient information more transparent and accessible.

Incentive payments began in 2011 and can be earned for up to five years of progressive advancement through increasingly integrative uses of EHR technology for the three stages.  For those who start in 2011 or 2012, the incentive payment can total up to $44,000 per eligible professional, if all requirements are met and sustained through each stage. Eligible professionals working in Health Professional Shortage Areas can earn a 10 percent bonus on top of the MU incentive payment. Failure to achieve MU will result in reductions in the fee schedule payment amount for services furnished by the eligible professionals.

Approximately 36% of health care professionals and 70% of hospitals have already qualified for incentive payments for EHR systems that meet the standards and objectives established by the program. 

For more information on the MU incentive program, visit the CMS website.

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