The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is getting ready to unveil standards that could help lead to increased physician use of electronic health records.
The ONC is polishing the first set of criteria that health care providers will be using to show whether they are making “meaningful use” of electronic health record (EHR) systems, and new criteria could come out sometime in the next 10 days, according to Jordan Battani, a principal at CSC Global Healthcare Group, a unit of Computer Sciences Corp., Falls Church, Va.
The EHR meaningful use provision is part of the the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009, which, in turn is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The EHR provision authorizes Medicare and Medicaid to distribute $18 billion in incentive payments to physicians and hospitals that are meaningful users of EHR systems. The incentive program is supposed to start in 2011.
Generally speaking, “meaningful use” means using EHRs in a way that supports clinical decision making, Battani says.
Some skeptics question whether EHR systems will do much to hold down health care spending, but advocates say the systems will improve the quality, safety and efficiency of care and may reduce costs.
Although health care providers will get incentives for meeting EHR milestone tests, providers who are still not using EHR systems after 2015 will face penalties. If Medicare and Medicaid managers enforce the requirements now set to take effect in 2015, providers who are not using EHR systems may not receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, Battani says.