Published On: July 15, 2010
HHS Announces Final Rules to Support Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records
DENVER, CO – July 15, 2010 – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Tuesday final rules to help improve Americans’ health, increase safety and reduce health care costs through expanded use of electronic health records (EHRs).
CORHIO operates CO-REC, one of 60 Regional Extension Centers around the country designated to offer health care providers technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to support and accelerate health care provider efforts to become meaningful users of EHRs.
“For years, health policy leaders on both sides of the aisle have urged adoption of electronic health records throughout our health care system to improve quality of care and ultimately lower costs,” Secretary Sebelius said. “With the leadership of the President and the Congress, we are making that goal a reality.”
Established under the HITECH Act under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, eligible health care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve specified objectives. One of the two regulations announced by HHS defines the “meaningful use” objectives that providers must meet to qualify for the bonus payments, and the other regulation identifies the technical capabilities required for certified EHR technology.
With “meaningful use” definitions in place, CO-REC will be working with primary care providers and their practices to ensure that the EHR system they acquire will support achievement of “meaningful use” objectives. With Tuesday’s announcement, a concentrated five-year national initiative to adopt and use electronic records in health care can begin.
“CO-REC and its six partner organizations provide the needed hands-on, field support for all health care providers in Colorado to advance the rapid adoption and use of health IT,” said Robyn Leone, Director of CO-REC. “CO-REC services launched this week and having the final rule for meaningful use will help us assist small, primary care practices to achieve meaningful use and access federal stimulus funds as soon as possible. Colorado health care providers are poised to make rapid advancements in the adoption of electronic health records and health information exchange, and we are excited to be part of helping them improve patient care and get to meaningful use.”
Two companion final rules were announced Tuesday. One regulation, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), defines the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of certified EHR technology in order to qualify for the payments. The other rule, issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), identifies the standards and certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions.
The CMS rule announced Tuesday makes final a proposed rule issued on January 13, 2010. The final rule includes modifications that address stakeholder concerns while retaining the intent and structure of the incentive programs. In particular, while the proposed rule called on eligible professionals to meet 25 requirements (23 for hospitals) in their use of EHRs, the final rules divides the requirements into a “core” group of requirements that must be met, plus an additional “menu” of procedures from which providers may choose. This “two track” approach ensures that the most basic elements of meaningful EHR use will be met by all providers qualifying for incentive payments, while at the same time allowing latitude in other areas to reflect providers’ needs and their individual path to full EHR use.
“Health care is finally making the technology advances that other sectors of our economy began to undertake years ago,” Dr. Blumenthal said. “These changes will be challenging for clinicians and hospitals, but the time has come to act. Adoption and meaningful use of EHRs will help providers deliver better and more effective care, and the benefits for patients and providers alike will grow rapidly over time.”
CORHIO is dedicated to improving health care quality for all Coloradans through health information exchange (HIE). As the state designated entity for HIE, CORHIO collaborates with health care stakeholders including physicians, hospitals, clinics, public health, long-term care, laboratories, health plans and patients to develop secure systems and processes for sharing clinical information. CO-REC, a CORHIO initiative, assists primary care providers in adopting, implementing and becoming meaningful users of electronic health record (EHR) systems CORHIO is a not-for-profit supported by grants from the Colorado Health Foundation and from federal ARRA HITECH funds. For more information about CORHIO, please visit www.corhio.org.