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Does meaningful use need an overhaul?

Brian Eastwood | July 1, 2014
Five years after the HITECH Act, the meaningful use incentive program for electronic health record (EHR) software may be in trouble.

What's more, for all the frustration surrounding meaningful use stage 2 attestation, there have been some silver linings.

  • The GAO notes that hospitals attesting for stage 1 hit their goals by an average of more than 10 percentage points. In the case of CPOE, they exceeded the stage 2 requirement for medication orders (60 percent) in their stage 1 attestation (84 percent, on average).
  • ONC reports that only 3 percent of eligible providers haven't signed up for meaningful use. (Bear in mind that meaningful use excludes numerous medical specialties, including behavioral and long-term health.)
  • Despite that EHR buyers' remorse, health IT spending isn't slowing down. In particular, organizations want to invest in data analytics to gain insight from the data locked in those EHR systems they may (or may not) regret buying.
  • Finally, 12 AHRQ grant recipients are researching meaningful use stage 3 feasibility, looking at overall objectives as well as specific measures pertain to patient engagement and data exchange. It's hoped that the results of this research will influence the stage 3 criteria that are in the works.

Healthcare has a long way to go to see the benefits of meaningful use, and it must improve data capture, portability and interoperability if today's EHR systems can play a role in tomorrow's coordinated healthcare systems. Though there's disagreement about whether pausing, refocusing or altogether scrapping meaningful use will accomplish this, the fact that the conversation is happening at all suggests that the incentive program's legacy will be more than the dollars that it gave healthcare providers.


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