Federal Officials Release Proposed Rules on Use of Electronic Records
On Dec. 30, CMS officials released proposed regulations defining the "meaningful use" of electronic health records as part of a wider government effort to spur the adoption of health information technology to improve medical care and cut costs, Reuters reports.
The regulations are included in the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, which provided billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to eligible health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of health IT (Wutkowski/Heavey, Reuters, 12/31/09).
According to the 700-page plan, the proposed requirements for demonstrating meaningful use of health IT will be phased in over three stages between now and 2013.
The criteria released on Wednesday mark the first stage, while the second stage is slated to be issued by the end of 2011. The third stage will be issued by the end of 2013 (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 12/30/09).
"Such a phased approach encompasses reasonable criteria for meaningful use based on currently available technology capabilities and provider practice experience, and builds up to a more robust definition of meaningful use, based on anticipated technology and capabilities development," the document states (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 12/30/09).
The first stage of criteria will focus on gathering data electronically -- which can be shared between providers and patients -- and reporting the measures to the government, National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal said during a briefing on Wednesday.
The second stage of criteria will focus on structured information exchange and continuous quality improvement. Stage three will focus on decision support for "national high priority conditions" and population health, Blumenthal added (Simmons, HealthLeaders Media, 12/31/09).
Under the proposed rules, health care providers who use EHR technology for at least 80% of their medical instructions would be eligible for the incentive payments, according to the AP/New York Times.
Providers also must give patients paper copies of their medical data and use computers to check for potential drug interactions.
Hospitals would have to file at least 10% of their orders electronically to be eligible for incentive payments (AP/New York Times, 12/30/09).
ONC Releases Interim Final Regulation for Health IT
On Dec. 30, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at HHS also issued an interim final rule outlining the technical standards and features that providers must implement in their EHR systems to comply with the standards and certification of meaningful use.
Blumenthal said the criteria "are very specifically linked to the definition of meaningful use" outlined in CMS' proposed regulations, adding, "This initial set of standards begins to define a common language to ensure accurate and secure health information exchange across different EHR systems."
According to Government Health IT, the rule also explains:
- The standard formats for clinical summaries and prescriptions; and
- Standard terms to describe clinical problems, procedures, laboratory tests, medications and the secure transportation of the data online (Government Health IT, 12/30/09).
Both regulations will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 13, 2010, with a 60-day comment period effective at that time. The rule will become effective 30 days after publication (Goedert, Health Data Management, 12/30/09).The final rule on the EHR adoption standards will be issued sometime in 2010, according to Reuters (Reuters, 12/31/09). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.