Since its inception, the Meaningful Use Program has sought to incentivize and guide the implementation of Electronic Health Record technology throughout our nation’s hospitals and healthcare organizations. Defined by HealthIT.gov, the goal of Meaningful Use is the utilization of certified EHR technology to improve quality, safety, and efficiency, increased engagement of patients and families, and improved care coordination.
As Meaningful Use has evolved since the original introduction of Stage 1 in 2011, the program’s objectives have grown from data capture and sharing to advanced clinical processes with the most recent objective on the horizon representing improved outcomes. Having successfully integrated within the healthcare system, the scope of the Meaningful Use program expands to more than 474,000 health care providers in the US. In addition, the program has paid out nearly $30 billion in Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program payments since May 2011. While the program’s impact has grown, so to have the worries of many who wonder whether Meaningful Use is on track.
In early August, the Meaningful Use Program faced heavy scrutiny and direct correspondence from some of the nation’s top hospitals who demanded the finalization of MU program changes. A letter sent August 8th to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell outlined these demands and the need for the program’s modifications to be defined. Amongst those who signed the letter were eight national hospital groups including America’s Essential Hospitals, The American Hospital Association, The Children’s Hospital Associations, VHA Inc, Premier healthcare Alliance, and more. The letter expressed these organizations’ belief that “Hospitals simply will not have sufficient time to understand the new requirements, work with their vendors to purchase and implement new or revised technology that would accommodate them, and invest in the training and workflow changes necessary to meet the new requirements”.
As tensions grew for health care providers participating in the MU program, recent news of the proposed plan has since allowed both Congressional leaders and health care industry stakeholders to breathe easy. The rule, received by the Office of Management and Budget was received on September 3rd, represented a small step towards finalizing a plan that will serve as the foundation for the program’s long term sustainability. However, as the Oct. 3 start date for the last reporting period looms near, this moment of relief for health care providers and organizations alike seems only temporary.