Federal Tech Panel Still Defining Electronic Health Records Terminology
The mid-December "milestone" for a federal advisory panel to come up with a definition of "meaningful use" of electronic medical records has come and gone, Modern Healthcare reports. That definition is to be used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to determine who is eligible for a share of $34 billion in subsidies provided as part of the February stimulus bill. The members of the federal panel began shaping their definition in May.
"The law only sketchily defines 'meaningful use' as the use of certified EHRs for electronic prescribing, information exchange and the reporting of quality measures, the latter of which are to be selected by HHS. The law requires HHS to publish rules for standards for certification of EHRs by Dec. 31. Earlier this year, the HIT Policy Committee ... recommended three tiers of increasingly more stringent criteria lasting for periods of two years each. The years 2011, 2013 and 2015 were chosen as the starting and ratcheting up dates to coincide with break points in the subsidy payment regime. Physicians who qualify for EHR subsidies will receive their maximum initial payments of $18,000 under Medicare if they start meaningfully using their EHRs in 2011 or 2012" (Conn, 12/16).
Meanwhile, HealthDay News/BusinessWeek reports, "U.S. physicians support the use of electronic medical records, but widespread concerns exist about privacy problems, two new studies show." The first report, on Massachusetts doctors, "found that 86 percent believed electronic health information exchange (HIE) would improve patient quality of care, 70 percent thought it would reduce costs and 76 percent said it would save time," while 16 percent were "very concerned" about privacy breaches. In the other study, most doctors and nurses "believed electronic health records were clearer and more complete than paper records, but not necessarily more factual" (Preidt, 12/16).