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"Meaningful Use" Rule May Prove Problematic, Says HIMSS

Kathy Mahdoubi, Senior Correspondent | January 05, 2010
Health IT and EHR
must be put to "meaningful use"
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the largest organization representing the Health IT industry exclusively, has released an official statement expressing both optimism and a need for further review of proposed federal guidelines that will determine who would be eligible for a new wave of health IT funding hitting shores as early as October 2010.

Last Wednesday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the definition of meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR) technology and criteria for achieving it, while the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed an interim final rule, which indicates the technological standards required. If passed, the guidelines will unlock incentive payments set aside in President Obama's Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The CMS proposed rule defines a meaningful EHR user as "an eligible professional or eligible hospital that, during the specified reporting period, demonstrates meaningful use of certified EHR technology in a form and manner consistent with certain objectives and measures presented in the regulation," and meaningful use as the employment of certified EHR technology that "improves quality, safety, and efficiency of health care delivery, reduces health care disparities, engages patients and families, improves care coordination, improves population and public health, and ensures adequate privacy and security protections for personal health information."

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HIMSS president and CEO H. Stephen Lieber issued a statement Monday that called for further analysis and public comment.

"On first read of the proposed regulations, HIMSS believes that there is much more to applaud than criticize," remarked Lieber in the statement. "We now have clarity of what technology functions constitute a qualified electronic health record; we now have a multi-year road map of future expectations; and we have certainty about many of the standards necessary to support practitioners' ability to improve patient care."

Lieber indicated that the guidelines did not stipulate a "single standard" and instead supported a free-market approach to EHR technology, which may prove problematic in meeting the objectives set by CMS and the ONC.

"Such restraint will have ramifications for health care, as will the necessary establishment of initial provider performance requirements that will ultimately drive quality improvements," noted Lieber. "We have much work to do within health care regarding simple adoption, well before we can achieve meaningful use of the IT. This foundational work -- while required -- will likely result in provider uncertainty about which IT products to adopt, costs through adoption of ever-maturing IT over time, higher costs associated with a need to support multiple standards, and somewhat delayed improvements in patient outcomes and costs."

The guidelines and interim final rule are now in a 60-day comment period. Final rules are expected to be announced sometime this year.

Read DOTmed's coverage of the CMS and ONC guidelines:

Other articles on HITECH and meaningful use

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