Meaningful Use for Physicians & Hospitals
Under the HITECH provisions of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act , physicians and hospitals have the opportunity to garner their share of the $19.2 billion funds designed to stimulate electronic health record (EHR) adoption and drive improvements in health care quality, efficiency and patient safety.

Early Bird Gets the Worm – and Meaningful Use Incentives
The landmark legislation enables office-based physicians and other eligible professionals to qualify for up to $44,000 in Medicare or up to $63,750 in Medicaid incentive payments by complying with meaningful use criteria by the established deadlines. Eligible hospitals can also benefit from Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments, beginning with a $2 million base payment.

However, the ARRA incentives party will come to an end in 2015. Not only will late adopters forego the financial incentives, but they will also face reductions in Medicare reimbursements if meaningful criteria is not met by 2015.

What is Meaningful Use?
According to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), physicians and hospitals must adhere to the following guidelines to show meaningful use compliance:

1. Use a certified EHR (per ONC standards) in a meaningful manner, which includes the use of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing);
2. Use a certified EHR that supports the electronic exchange of health information to improve quality;
3. Submit information on clinical quality measures, as determined by the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, for the reporting period.

Stages of Meaningful Use
CMS established three stages to guide meaningful use compliance. Stage 1, which was finalized on July 13, 2010, focuses on electronic, coded data capture to support exchange of health information for care coordination, tracking key clinical conditions, and initial reporting efforts of clinical quality measures and public health information.

Stage 2 criteria, to become effective in 2014, will broaden the meaningful use scope to increased interoperability and exchange of data (i.e. higher thresholds for many measures; the addition of clinical laboratory test results; sharing of real data as opposed to test exchanges/data; and the electronic transmission of summary of care records across unaffiliated providers, settings and EHR systems) and increased patient engagement in care.

Stage 3 criteria is still under development, but it is expected to include an emphasis on decision support for national high priority conditions, population health outcomes and patient self-management tools.