SAN FRANCISCO, July 14 — With today’s release of the final rules for Meaningful Use of EMRs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have created a clear and achievable path for widespread Electronic Medical Record (EMR) adoption in the US.
The interim set of Meaningful Use criteria, originally released by CMS on December 30, 2009, set forth visionary and arguably rigid goals for the use of health information technology (HIT) in the US. During a 90-day open feedback period with over 2,000 comments received from the medical sector, some expressed concerns they would be unable to meet all the originally proposed standards. Yesterday’s revisions have relaxed certain criteria and provided additional flexibility for providers to select which standards to meet, ensuring that medical professionals can meet the new guidelines and qualify for HITECH incentive payments.
• The requirements for Meaningful Use incentives are now divided into 15 mandatory core criteria and 10 additional menu criteria, of which providers need to meet five.
• The percentage of medical procedures and documentation that must be carried out using an EHR has been lowered for many criteria.
•In order to qualify for $44,000 or more in stimulus plan incentives, physicians must meet the Meaningful Use criteria using an HHS-certified EMR system.
•The HHS certification process for EHR systems has just been defined and vendors will begin certification in the fall.
“The widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) in the United States is inevitable,” said David Blumenthal, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, at the launch. “EHRs will improve caregivers’ decisions and patients’ outcomes. Once patients experience the benefits of this technology, they will demand nothing less from their providers. Hundreds of thousands of physicians have already seen these benefits in their clinical practice.”
Under the stimulus plan, EMR incentives are inspiring a monumental shift from paper charts to EMRs over the next five years. The new criteria set the stage for future wide health information exchange including electronic immunization data to national registries, and reporting trend data to public health agencies. In 2009, the American Medical Association estimated that there were over 800,000 physicians in the U.S. In the same year, only 6.3% of physicians reported having a fully functional EMR system in place according to the CDC.