EHR Incentives and Certifications – Attaining Meaningful Use

In 2009, legislation authorized the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to offer health care providers financial incentives to use certified electronic health recording technology (CEHRT) to keep electronic health records (EHRs) on patients. Learn about meaningful use and what’s new in 2018.

Meaningful Use

Meaningful use means health care organizations use certified EHR technology to improve the safety and value of patient care, communicate with patients and their families, coordinate with other health services, and keep patient data secure. Meaningful use results in improved patient outcomes, better overall public health, improved organizational transparency, and more usable data for research.

Meaningful Use Stages

To qualify for payments from the state, professionals and hospitals have been required to complete objectives in stages, as follows:

  • Stage 1, implemented in 2011 or 2012. Meaningful use required providers to record health information digitally in a standardized format. By the end of Stage 1, qualified providers used electronic records to monitor specific conditions, coordinate treatment between providers, and communicate with families.
  • Stage 2, implemented in 2014. This stage of meaningful use focused on clinical processes with a more meticulous health information exchange (HIE), increased regulation of e-prescriptions and lab result processing and making more data available to the patient.
  • Stage 3, implemented in 2016. Meaningful use prioritized improved patient outcomes. Patients received greater access to tools they could use to take control of their own care. Providers received more comprehensive patient data.

Updates for 2018

CMS recently released several revisions hospitals need to know for inpatient reimbursement this year. Stage 3 meaningful use requires an HIE that allows providers to securely transmit electronic outlines of the care they provided patients. Other authorized providers should be able to view or download it electronically and exchange it with public health agencies according to CMS requirements. Physicians are responsible for providing patients with access and explaining to them that it is available.

In 2017, meaningful use involved engaging 5 percent of patients using CEHRT. In 2018, that goal becomes 10 percent of patients or their caregivers. Health care providers must respond to at least 25 percent of secure patient communications to qualify for incentives.

Providers who already qualify must use a reporting period of a calendar year. Those completing meaningful use requirements for the first time are required to show a continuous 90-day EHR reporting period.

Hospitals should be working to achieve these goals in 2018 and achieve MU Stage 3 by 2019. If you’re not sure whether your organization meets these requirements, an experienced health law attorney can recommend resources for evaluating and improving your EHR system.