The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final meaningful use rules on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010, at 10:00 AM. These rules outline the features Electronic Health Record (EHR) software must provide in order to become certified. Purchasing software with the required features is not enough; physicians will have to use the features according to defined measures in order to qualify for the stimulus funds.

HHS has revised the meaningful use rules proposed back in January to make them easier for practices to implement. They split the requirements into two groups: a core group, and an optional group. The core group includes 15 items practices must implement in order to qualify. The optional group includes 14 items; practice must choose five of these to implement in 2011 and 2012.

Required features include recording patient demographics; recording vital signs; maintaining an up-to-date problem list, an active medication list, and active medication allergy lists; recording smoking status for patients 13 years and older; providing patients with clinical summaries for each office visit; providing patients with an electronic copy of their health information; generate and transmit permissible prescriptions electronically; use computer provider order entry (CPOE); implement drug-drug and drug-allergy interaction checks; capability to electronically exchange key clinical information among providers; implement one decision support rule; implement systems to protect privacy and security of patient data; and reporting clinical quality measures to CMS.

Providers may choose five of the following: Implement drug formulary checks; incorporate clinical laboratory test results into the EHR; generate lists of patients by specific conditions to use for quality improvement; use EHR technology to identify patient-specific education resources and provide those to the patient; perform medication reconciliation between care settings; provide summary of care record for patients referred or transitioned to another provider or setting; submit electronic immunization data to immunization registries or immunization information systems; submit electronic syndromic surveillance data to public health agencies; send reminders to patients for preventative and follow up care; and provide patients with timely electronic access to their health information.

As you can see, the new rules give providers more latitude in meeting the meaningful use requirements. As you remember, providers could receive up to $44,000 under the Medicare program, or up to $64,000 under the Medicaid program if they meet the meaningful use guidelines. HHS will break up the payments over a five-year period. Most of the money comes in the first two years, so providers will need to act fast to qualify.

If you do not currently have an EHR, you need to act quickly in order to qualify for payments in 2011. If you currently have an EHR, you should evaluate your features to see if it will support meaningful use. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about meaningful use or the HITECH stimulus package.

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Ryan Ricks

Security Officer