HHS Releases Final Rules for ‘Meaningful Use’

HHSBillboard_healthdataThe Department of Health and Human Services released yesterday its final rules on meaningful use, a set guidelines established under the The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act healthcare providers must follow to receive federal funding for their implementation of electronic health records systems.

The rules were sent in for review to the Office of Management and Budget last Monday after many physicians and hospitals expressed their confusion of the previous guidelines. Now that the official rules have been reviewed and released, providers will more easily be able to apply EHR use to these guidelines to receive funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We heard it was too inflexible; that it was an all-or-nothing set of objectives. So we added some choice,” said National Health IT Coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal at the press conference Tuesday. “We want the objectives of meaningful use to be both ambitious but achievable. So we added some choice.”

In order to make meaningful use more achievable, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services added some flexibility to the rules. The CMS got rid of the rule requiring physicians to meet a set of 25 criteria and hospitals a set of 23 criteria to be eligible to receive funding for EHR systems.

Instead, hospitals must meet 19 criteria and physicians 20 under a formula that includes 15 mandatory quality measures for doctors and 14 for hospitals with a choice of five others from a set of 10 rules that are part of a “menu.” Some of the items on the menu include capacities to perform drug-formulary checks, incorporate clinical laboratory results into EHRs, provide reminders to patients for needed care, identify and provide patient-specific health education resources and employ EHRs to support the patient’s transitions between care settings or personnel, according to Blumenthal.

“We looked at the comments to figure out what was fair. We also reduced the clinical-decision support requirement from five rules to one. There are a whole host of similar changes,” he said.

“Moving from legacy paper systems to modern information technology is a big change; it’s really a new culture, and you don’t get there in one step,” said Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Dr. Donald Berwick at the conference. “Today’s final rule represents really, really good progress to get us toward the answers we need. It will be better for patients and for the people who care for them, and it’s going to be less costly.”

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