HHS Begins Process to Define "Meaningful Use," Public Comment-Period Called

 

June 16, 2009

June 16, 2009 - While the healthcare community awaited the first "Meaningful Use" definition due today, healthcare stakeholders struggled to define one of the key medical terms for the ARRA.

The Health Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee, a Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), met today to begin the process of defining “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs). This meeting is a first step for the department, as it investigates possible definitions for meaningful use.

“We are moving fast to achieve the President’s goal to improve the health and well-being of every American through the on-going use of health information technology,” stated HHS’ National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P. “The work of the policy committee is a first step toward assuring that technology - the electronic health record - is used in a meaningful way to provide better patient care.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) sent out a notice that it is seeking comments on the preliminary definition of “Meaningful Use,” as presented to the HIT Policy Committee on June 16, 2009.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Recovery Act”) (Pub. L. 111-5) provides for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for eligible providers, such as physicians and hospitals, in order to promote the adoption of EHRs. To receive the incentive payments, providers must demonstrate “meaningful use” of a certified EHR. Building upon the work of the HIT Policy Committee, HHS anticipates developing a proposed rule that provides greater detail on the incentive programs and “meaningful use.” HHS expects to issue the proposed rule in late 2009, which will be followed by a comment period.

Comments on the draft description of “Meaningful Use” are due no later than 5 p.m./Eastern Time on June 26, 2009, and should be no more than 1,000 words in length.

The "Summary of Key Health Information Technology Provisions," issued March 6, 2009, stated the following about "meaningful use":
A meaningful user is an eligible professional (physician) that:
1) Demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that during such period the professional is using certified EHR technology in a meaningful manner, which shall include the use of electronic prescribing as determined to be appropriate by the Secretary;
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
2) Demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that during such period such certified EHR technology is connected in a manner that provides, in accordance with law and standards applicable to the exchange of information, for the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of health care, such as promoting care coordination; and
3) Submits information for such period, in a form and manner specified by the Secretary, on such clinical quality measures and such other measures as selected by the Secretary.

Electronic responses to the request for comments on the draft description of Meaningful Use are preferred and should be addressed to: MeaningfulUse@hhs.gov, subject line “Meaningful Use.”

Written comments may also be submitted to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 200 Independence Ave, SW, Suite 729D, Washington, DC 20201. Attention: HIT Policy Committee Meaningful Use Comments.

For additional information, including any requests for a hard copy (or faxed copy) of the draft description of Meaningful Use, call or email Judith Sparrow, 202-205-4528, judy.sparrow@hhs.gov