Secretary Sebelius Announces Final Rules to Support Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its plan to expand the use of electronic health records (EHR) through incentives payments, to improve Americans’ health, increase safety and reduce health care costs. Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt EHR technology and achieve specified objectives. As much as $27 billion will be expended through this incentives program over the next ten years. Professionals who are eligible may receive as much as $44,000 under Medicare and $63,750 under Medicaid, and hospitals may receive millions of dollars for implementation and meaningful use of certified EHRs under both Medicare and Medicaid.

HHS announced the requirements for professionals who wish to participate with the EHR incentive payment program. The first of two regulations announced today defines the “meaningful use” objectives that providers must meet to qualify for the bonus payments while the other regulation identifies the technical capabilities required for certified EHR technology. With the “meaningful use” definition now in place, EHR system vendors can ensure that their systems deliver the required capabilities, providers can be assured that the system they acquire will support achievement of “meaningful use” objectives, and a concentrated five-year national initiative to adopt and use electronic records in health care can begin.

Two other companion rules were also announced today. One issued by CMS, defines the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of EHR technology and the other rule, issued by the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, identifies the standards and certification criteria of EHR technology.

The requirements for the “meaningful use” incentive payments will be implemented over a multi-year period, phasing in additional requirements that will continue to expand the quality objectives the EHR incentives program are supposed to meet.

For more information on this topic, feel free to call Adrienne Dresevic, Esq., Jessica L. Gustafson, Esq., Robert S. Iwrey, Esq., Carey F. Kalmowitz, Esq., or Abby Pendleton, Esq. of The Health Law Partners at (248) 996-8510.

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