EHRs and meaningful use for dummies

In the medical transcription industry, we talk a lot about how we can help your facility achieve “meaningful use.”

NEMT Communications Director Tara Courtland

If you run a hospital or a clinic, you already know what meaningful use is; it’s probably one of the things keeping you up at night. For everyone else, here are the Cliffs Notes:

Electronic health records are the future of healthcare; before long, records of your health history will follow you for your entire life. That means if you move from one state to another, your new doctor will be able to easily access (with your permission) records from your old doctor. If you’re taken to the emergency room, the physician on call will be able to pull up a list of your current medications and allergies. And if you need a prescription, your doctor can automatically send it to the pharmacy with the click of a button.

But electronic health records won’t take hold overnight and they won’t happen by magic. Behind the scenes, physicians, health information directors, medical transcriptionists, clinical documentation specialists, technology experts and government planners are working overtime to pull it all together.

For individual hospitals, clinics and physician practices, the new electronic health records (EHRs) will require investments totaling thousands of dollars for software, training and IT support.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is helping out by offering incentive payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers who adopt EHRs. The Medicare EHR Incentive Program provides doctors with up to $44,000 over five years. A similar program for Medicaid offers up to $63,750 over six years.

In order to qualify for the payments, physicians and facilities must meet what the government calls “meaningful use” criteria.

Put simply, “meaningful use” means that a doctor or hospital is using EHRs effectively to improve patient care, exchange information and measure results. Because setting up EHRs is such a complex and costly undertaking, the Department of Health and Human Services has broken the process down into stages that run from 2011 through 2015.

In Stage 1 (2011-2012), hospitals and doctors only need to begin setting up the EHR system and some of the requirements state only that the hospital must have the ability to share certain information; they don’t have to actually share it yet.

Stage 2 is the sticking point, in part because the rules haven’t been finalized yet. Because the DHHS is still hammering out the details, members of the healthcare industry have time to lobby Washington to make sure their views are included in Stage 2.

But for the lobbying stories, you’ll have to check back here next month. In the meantime, you can see our cheat sheet of Stage 1 guidelines by clicking here.


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About Tara Courtland

Tara Courtland is the communications director at NEMT.
This entry was posted in Meaningful Use and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to EHRs and meaningful use for dummies

  1. Maureen Wylie says:

    Great article Tara, love the “for dummies” tag.
    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Pingback: Electronic Health Records For Dummies | WWW.JUSTINFOHUB.COM

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