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Meaningful Use Background

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What We've Done

Meaningful Use (MU) is the set of standards defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentive Programs that governs the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and allows eligible providers and hospitals to earn incentive payments by meeting specific criteria.

Qualified providers can earn incentive payments for up to five years if they elect to receive their incentive payment through Medicare or up to six years if they elect to receive their incentive payment through Medicaid. However, no Medicare EHR incentive payments will be made to providers whose first year of participation in the Medicare EHR Program is 2015 or later. Moreover, beginning in 2015, payment adjustments will take effect for Medicare Fee-for-Service providers who cannot successfully demonstrate MU using certified EHR technology.

Qualified providers can begin to participate in the Medicaid EHR incentive program until 2016, and there are currently no penalties for not demonstrating MU for Medicaid Eligible Professionals (EPs). In 2017, MU becomes part of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which will score providers participating in the Medicare Fee-for-Service payment model and determine payment adjustments (negative, neutral or positive, based on these scores).  These corresponding payment adjustments will start in 2019. To find out more information about MIPS, click here. For details about the incentive programs, visit the CMS website.

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Our Goal

The goal of MU is to promote the utilization of EHRs to improve health care in the United States. EHRs can provide many benefits for providers and their patients, but the benefits depend on how they’re used. The benefits of MU of EHRs include:

  • Complete and accurate information to provide the best possible care.With EHRs, providers will know more about their patients and their health histories before walking into the examination room.
  • Better access to and sharing of information.EHRs facilitate greater access to the information providers need to diagnose health problems earlier and improve the health outcomes of their patients. EHRs also allow information to be shared more easily among doctors’ offices and hospitals, and across health systems, leading to better coordination of care.
  • Patient empowerment and participation. EHRs help empower patients to take a more active role in their health and in the health of their families. Patients can receive electronic copies of their medical records and share their health information securely over the internet with their families.

The term MU was introduced as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and focuses on quality reporting of core measures through the use of health IT.

Legislation and Regulations

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) provides the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the authority to establish programs to improve health-care quality, safety and efficiency through the promotion of health IT, including EHRs and private and secure electronic health information exchange.

Under HITECH, eligible health-care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve specified objectives.

Four regulations have been released, two of which define the “MU” objectives that providers must meet to qualify for the bonus payments, and two of which identify the technical capabilities required for certified EHR technology.

  • Incentive Program for Electronic Health Records: Issued by CMS, these final rules define the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of certified EHR technology to qualify for the payments for Stages 1 and 2 of meaningful use.
  • Standards and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Records:Issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, these rules identify the standards and criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the release of the final rules for Stage 2 of MU and updated certification criteria and standards. Learn more about the final rules and read about meaningful use clinical quality measures.