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Meaningful Use

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provides HHS with the authority to establish programs to improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health information technology (HIT), including electronic health records and private and secure electronic health information exchange.

Under HITECH, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve specified objectives.

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs will provide incentive payments to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) as they adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology.

Providers must attest to demonstrating meaningful use every year to receive an incentive and avoid a Medicare payment adjustment.

Two initial regulations have been released, one of which defines the "meaningful use" objectives that providers must meet to qualify for the bonus payments, and the other which identifies the technical capabilities required for certified EHR technology.

  • Incentive Program for Electronic Health Records: Issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the EHR Incentive Program final rule (7/28/10) defines the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of certified EHR technology in order to qualify for the payments.
  • Standards and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Records: Issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, this rule identifies the standards and certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions.

Subsequently, on August 29, 2014, CMS and ONC released a final rule that granted flexibility to providers who are unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT for an EHR reporting period in 2014 due to delays in 2014 CEHRT availability. This allows providers participating in the EHR Incentive Programs to use EHRs that have been certified under the 2011 Edition, a combination of the 2011 and 2014 Editions, or the 2014 Edition for 2014 participation. Beginning in 2015, all eligible providers will be required to report using 2014 Edition CEHRT.