Understanding Meaningful Use

The term “Meaningful Use” is a name applied to the portion of the HITECH Act that describes the methodology that must be used in order to achieve the levels of efficiency and cost savings that should be realized through the program.

There are three main components of Meaningful Use that must be employed:

  1. Certified EHR (Electronic Health Records) technology must be applied in a meaningful manner. Several methods are detailed in the program, including E-prescriptions.
  2. Certified EHR technology must be used for electronic transfer of patient health information. This is a critical component and advantage of proper use of EHR technology.
  3. Certified EHR technology must be used to submit clinical quality data and other criteria.

There are monetary incentives for achieving the goals in the HITECH program. In order to quality for the incentives, a company must employ the methodology described in the program. This is not optional. For an eligible medical professional (doctors and nurse practitioners) to qualify, 15 core objectives must be implemented, plus a choice of 5 out of 10 additional objectives. Hospitals are required to implement 14 core objectives and 5 out 10 additional objectives. The rules require that the objectives be used in a meaningful manner and not simply put in place. The “use in a meaningful manner” is at the heart of implementing an EHR system successfully. Physicians must show that they are achieving Meaningful Use of the systems they install. Proper training for employees is therefore an important component of Meaningful Use.

All information gathered for a patient must be complete and accurate, and digitized in a prescribed format that allows for easy and secure transfer when required in an emergency. The Meaningful Use implementation of the program will create efficiencies that paper documents cannot achieve, due to the fact that paper documents are frequently stored separately. Paper records also require time to gather. A unified collection of all health history for a patient should allow doctors to make better decisions that will improve overall healthcare in the USA. The collection of data needs to include patient demographic data as well as all clinical health information related to the patient.

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