Meaningful Use of an EHR: What It Is & How It Can Save You Money

For its formal definition, meaningful use is a term used in healthcare to outline the minimum requirements for using electronic health information and electronic health records (EHRs).

In the simplest terms, meaningful use means taking steps to boost patient care with an EHR by improving the communications between patient and provider, provider and insurance, and provider to provider.

Watch the video or read the transcript below to find out what meaningful use is and why you should make sure you’re compliant.

Video Transcript

The General Intent of Meaningful Use

The overall goal of meaningful use is to promote the adoption and use of EHRs, in turn helping to increase collaboration between clinical and public healthcare, improve patient-centric preventative care, and support the continuing development of standardized data exchanges.

Background on Meaningful Use

In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) introduced programs designed to encourage EHR adoption and phase in meaningful use with EHR systems in 3 stages.

Among the other benefits of using electronic health records, one of the main methods used for encouraging adoption was a reimbursement program spanning from 2011–2015, where during that time if you were able to demonstrate meaningful use you were offered financial incentives.

Reimbursements in the Past, Financial Penalties Today

penalties for no meaningful useAt the start, reimbursements were given for showing meaningful use with an EHR, but now since 2015 if you don’t show proof of meaningful use, then you’re subject to penalties for the next year on Medicare reimbursements.

When eligible providcers don’t meet the requirements for meaningful use by 2015 they become subject to payment adjustments to their medicare reimbursements that start at 1% per year, up to a maximum 5% annual adjustment.

Implementing Meaningful Use In 3 Separate Stages

To make adopting EHRs a smoother process, the meaningful use implementation process is broken down into 3 stages:

Stage 1: Adopting Certified EHR Technologies

The main focus of Stage 1 is the promotion and implementation of certified EHR technologies. Requirements for Stage 1 are fairly straightforward—clinical data needs to be electronically captured and patients need to have the ability to access a digital copy of their own health records.

Stage 2: Expanding EHR Systems to Improve Care Coordiantion

Stage 2 builds on the initial adoption of EHRs, this time emphasizing their meaningful use. Focusing primarily on internal needs, during Stage 2 the requirements for meaningful use expand to include the ability to exchange patient information and, as a result, improve care coordination.

Stage 3: Using More Advanced Technologies to Improve Health Outcomes

EHR patient portal

Stage 3 finishes implementing meaningful use by taking more specific steps to improve patient health outcomes.

With a larger system now in place, during Stage 3 requirements for meaningful use will include more advanced technologies like EHR system securities, e-prescriptions, and patient portals.

Final Requirements for Proving Meaningful Use

There are 15 final requirements you need to meet in order to prove meaningful use of your EHRs. Listed based on the stage they should be implemented, these requirements include:

STAGE 1 STAGE 2 STAGE 3
  • Computerized provider order entry (CPOE)
  • Provide patients with a digital copy of their health information
  • Provide electronic clinical summaries for patients after each office visit
  • Ability to exchange key clinical information
  • Implement clinical decision support
  • Report ambulatory clinical quality measures to CMS/States
  • Record and chart changes in vital signs
  • Maintain up-to-date problem lists of current and active diagnoses
  • Protections for electronic health information
  • Provide e-prescriptions (eRx)
  • Maintain active medication list
  • Maintain active medication allergy list
  • Drug-drug & drug allergy checks
  • Record patient demographics
  • Record smoking status for patients 13 years & older

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