Health IT News Roundup: Meaningful Use and Interoperability Roadmap

In just 24 hours at the end of January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued two statements involving electronic health records that will impact both the physicians who use them and the medical software companies that develop the systems to support them. The first has a more immediate impact, while the other isn’t likely to affect physicians for some time. Here’s what you need to know to catch up:

Revision of Meaningful Use Standards

On Jan. 29, the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) announced on its official blog that it intends to create a new rule for reporting Stage 2 meaningful use in 2015. Meaningful use means that EHR technology is being used to engage patients, improve care coordination, and improve the quality of health services, among other things. This is an important change because the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs implement financial incentives and penalties for eligible physicians and hospitals if they implement or upgrade their electronic health records. In order to receive benefits, however, these healthcare providers must demonstrate what is called meaningful use.

Some physicians, it appears, have had no trouble making the changes to onsite or online EHR software systems to meet requirements. About 75% of physicians who had adopted an EHR system said that it met the federal criteria for meaningful use. But there was also quite a bit of feedback to CMS saying that providers would not be able to demonstrate meaningful use in time for 2015. So CMS will issue a new rule sometime this spring intended to ease reporting burdens for physicians and hospitals. This rule will be separate, CMS clarified, from the Stage 3 rule that should come out by March but won’t go into effect for another two years.

Roadmap for Interoperability in Health IT

The morning after CMS said it would revise meaningful use standards for 2015, HHS also released a roadmap from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) for achieving interoperability in health IT by 2024. At the core of this vision are electronic health records themselves, systematic collections of broad types of health data concerning both individual patients and populations (while it’s unnecessary to get into the EMR vs EHR issue here, you should know that many electronic medical records, while somewhat more limited, are part of those same goals).

The current draft of the roadmap has been dubbed version “1.0,” and is expected to evolve as various agencies and individuals weigh in. “It is only through everyone’s combined efforts that we will achieve a learning health system that brings real value to electronic health information as a means to better care, wiser spending and healthier people,” National Coordinator Karen B. DeSalvo wrote in the document’s introduction. The full roadmap is available on the website, and a public comment period will remain open until April 3.


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