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Understanding the “Meaningful Use” of EHR - Part I The widespread misuse of health records of patients forced the federal government to come up with the HIPAA and HITECH acts. Though the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH)of 2009 encouraged the use of technology in the healthcare industry, it also dealt with the privacy and security concerns associated with the electronic transmission of patient health information. As part of its attempt to promote heath information technology (HIT), the federal government announced Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for the healthcare professionals who adopt certified electronic health records (EHR) technology and achieve benefits through its meaningful use in healthcare. Through this act, the federal government wanted not only fast adoption of EHRs but also healthcare improvement through EHRs. As per the act, the main components of “meaningful use” are

● Using certified EHR technology meaningfully ● Using certified EHR technology for exchanging health information electronically ● Using certified EHR technology for improving healthcare quality ● Using certified EHR technology for submitting clinical quality and other measures The HITECH act clearly specifies the “meaningful use”objectives that the healthcare providers must meet in order to be eligible for the incentives. These objectives can be categorized as

1. Enhance the quality, safety and efficiency of care by reducing discrepancies 2. Engage not only patients but also their families in their care 3. Enhance care coordination 4. Improve the health of the public as well as the population 5. Ensure privacy and security of the EHRs Those healthcare professionals and hospitals that adopt certified EHR technology and use it to improve the healthcare are eligible for receiving incentives. The following are the details of the incentive program defined in the HITECH act.

● As part of the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, eligible professionals and hospitals who has participated in the program as early as 2011, would receive up to $44,000 over 5 years.

● As part of the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, eligible professionals and hospitals who has participated in the program as early as 2011, would receive up to $63,750 over 6 years.

● Those healthcare professionals and hospitals who fail to adopt EHR by 2015 would be fined 1% of Medicare payments, which subsequently increases to 3% over 3 years.

● Those professionals and hospitals qualified for Medicare incentives must start participation at least by 2012.


The HITECH act proposes to define meaningful use of electronic health records in three stages. Only stage 1 has been defined so far while other stages would be defined within 2015. In the second part of this article, we will delve upon stage 1. Read on - risk management solutions, vendor management


Understanding the “Meaningful Use” of EHR - Part I