A Next Step for “Meaningful Use”

Healthcare is a step closer to a definition for the “meaningful use” of health IT. The Health IT Policy Committee approved revised recommendations for the “meaningful use” of health IT today, handing them off to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The committee’s revision of its earlier recommendations features modified criteria for use of computerized physician order entry and faster adoption of clinical decision support and personal health records among the score of major and minor tweaks.

The committee also offered new recommendations on the rollout of the program’s objectives and measures, which evolve from 2011 to 2015.

ARRA structured the incentives program to encourage providers to get started early. However, with the revisions the committee recommends that the evolving criteria be based on “adoption year” rather than a calendar year. That is, an organization that first seeks to become eligible for the program in 2012 would use the first-year criteria (2011). Otherwise, the committee felt, the “rising tide” of criteria could be a deterrent.

The Health IT Policy Committee, established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, advises the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. It released its first draft of meaningful use recommendations June 16. ONC received nearly 800 public comments in the two week review period.

Comments generally approved of the focus on outcomes and quality and the need to base meaningful use on existing measures, ONC reported during yesterday’s policy committee meeting.

Under ARRA the meaningful use definition will in part determine which providers are eligible to receive incentive payments for the use of health IT. Providers who are “meaningful users” of health IT can receive up to $44,000 in increased Medicare and Medicaid payments over five years.

The policy committee’s recommendations next go to the Health IT Standards Committee, which advises Office of the National Coordinator on standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria. The committee will compare the policy committees recommendations against existing industry standards that could be applied against them.

ONC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will ultimately determine the final meaningful use definition and the incentive program details. Those regulations are expected in the fall and will be open to public comment.

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