Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.
What is Meaningful Use?
Perry, a healthcare technology student at a local college, is preparing a presentation on the importance of documentation in the healthcare setting. He knows the obvious benefits of documentation to both patients and clinicians, but hopes to learn more about recent laws promoting the use of technology and electronic documentation in the healthcare industry.
After reading up on the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act from 2009, Perry learns that billions of dollars have been invested in the effort to increase the use of technology in healthcare. Reading further into the law, he learns of its true purpose: to achieve meaningful use of health-related information. This includes:
- Increase widespread use of appropriate technology to gather information
- Identify and capture relevant clinical data
- Document judiciously, with a cause
- Facilitate the exchange of health data
- Use the data meaningfully to positively impact health outcomes
Perry is overwhelmed with the amount of changes required by the HITECH act to accomplish meaningful use. After further digging on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website, he is relieved to find that most of the information he is looking for regarding meaningful use is located online.
He pulls the CMS website up by typing www.cms.gov into his web browser and clicks on the 'Regulations and Guidance' button towards the top of the page.
By clicking on the 'EHR Incentive Programs' link, he is taken to a page of resources that outline program requirements. He finds that the the initiative is divided into three distinct phases.
Stage 1 is the initial phase of the meaningful use program. It sets out to standardize the way clinicians capture data. This means that the archaic process of handwriting notes and manual filing is discouraged and even penalized, forcing providers to seek out electronic means of documenting patient data.
In addition to collecting information with the use of electronic health records (EHRs) or computerized patient files, providers are now also encouraged to begin sharing access to health information with their patients to allow for improved health engagement and accountability for all parties.
Building on Stage 1, Stage 2 of meaningful use charges clinicians to judiciously use their EHRs. In doing so, Perry learns that clinicians are held accountable for documenting information required by government entities and quality initiatives to identify areas of health concerns in the population and national healthcare trends.
Not only are clinicians responsible for the electronic collection of data, but they are preparing to use it as information to impact patient care.
A later addition to the stages of meaningful use, Stage 3 focuses on continual use of the EHR to further impact patient outcomes. During this stage, clinicians and providers are encouraged to use the collected meaningful data as a way to positively influence:
- Structured hand-offs of care from one clinician to the next
- Quality of care
- Efficiency and speed of healthcare delivery
So why should providers follow the guidelines for meaningful use? Well, there are incentives and penalties attached. Implementing meaningful use positively impacts patient care by improving the safe exchange of critical information. But if organizations need more incentive than that, government agencies like the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services offer financial incentives for the implementation of Meaningful Use.
Once the objectives of each stage are accomplished, individual physicians as well as whole organizations are eligible for receiving these rewards. However, Perry also learns that if participants are unable to meet the expectations of meaningful use within a designated time period, reimbursement penalties ranging from 1-5% are applied thereby reducing the amount of payment from government-based insurance plans.
Meaningful use is part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009. As a project aimed at making widespread improvements in the collection, identification, and impact of clinical data, meaningful use was split into three stages to accomplish these goals.
- Stage 1 focuses on transitioning from paper to electronic charting, with the use of electronic medical records (EMRs).
- Stages 2 encourages individual providers and organizations to collect meaningful and relevant data related to the point of care and delivery of care services to better facilitate the safe exchange of health data.
- A late addition, Stage 3 aims to positively impact population health outcomes, as well as quality, safety, and efficiency of care.
Incentive programs were created by government agencies to promote meaningful use, and employed a series of incentives for early achievers as well as penalties for late adopters.
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