What is Meaningful Use?

The U.S. government introduced the Meaningful Use program as part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to encourage health care providers to show "meaningful use" of a certified Electronic Health Record (EHR). In doing so, eligible providers who do so receive incentive payments.

But why this program, and what is Meaningful Use? The overall goal of the Meaningful Use program is to promote the widespread adoption of electronic health records systems, ultimately creating an infrastructure that improves the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care in the United States. Farzad Mostashari, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said, "It's what's right for the patient, and our goal as a country to get to better health, better healthcare and lower costs."1

To qualify for Meaningful Use incentive payments, eligible providers must not only adopt an EHR, but also show that they are "meaningfully using" their EHR by meeting a number of objectives designed to have a positive impact on patient care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has established these measures as part of their mission to advance health care IT in the U.S.

How much are the incentive payments?

Individual physicians and other eligible health care professionals can each receive up to $44,000 through the Medicare Meaningful Use program or up to $63,750 through the Medicaid Meaningful Use program, depending upon when they begin attesting to the program's requirements.

The penalties for not being a "meaningful user"

The HITECH Act provides that, beginning in 2015, eligible providers not exhibiting meaningful use of certified EHR technology will receive less than 100 percent of their Medicare fee schedule for their professional services. Considering this upcoming revenue penalty, current incentive payments and the efficient sharing of information that Meaningful Use promotes, it is widely considered that now is the time to find the best EHR solution for your workflow needs, and to begin (or continue) participating in the Meaningful Use program.

1 Health Informatics, 8.24.12,, from National eHealth Collaborative, Aug. 24, 2012 webinar.

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