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The Riddle Of “Meaningful Use” Soon To Be Defined

Posted by J. Paul Spencer, CPC, CPC-H in Fi-Med Services, Hot Topics, J. Paul Spencer, CPC CPC-H

Mankind, being the one member of the animal kingdom capable of rational thought, has left behind many written documents of the quest for answers and definitions to questions relating to its existence. Despite centuries of thought, many questions still remain, such as:

  • Where did that sock disappear to from the laundry?
  • Where did they get the cream for the coconut cream pies on “Gilligan’s Island”?
  • If the afterlife is the perfect place, why do so many people dislike harp music?

This is my short list. I would imagine the questions on your list vary.

One question in the realm of medical billing and documentation that deserves an answer will be coming soon. As we learned after the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Medicare will begin to pay incentives to physicians who begin “meaningful use” of an electronic medical record.

The term “meaningful use”, to date, has not been defined, but Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (HIT), stated in an online open letter posted here on October 1st that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are expected to give a draft definition of this term by the end of the claendar year. This will be followed by a public comment period that is expected to help further define this term before presentation of a final rule.

Speculation has been that this term will include current reporting programs such as PQRI and E-Prescribing, along with clear functionality, security and interoperability with other electronic medical records systems. As we get closer to the implementation of the bonus program in 2011, a clear picture will begin to emerge as to what will be needed to qualify for the HIT bonus.

There will be a government-backed certification (known as a CCHIT) for EMR systems that meet these still-preliminary standards. I remain puzzled by entities who are purchasing EMR programs prior to certification without knowing whether these will be able to meet standards. I would imagine that for some of these purchasers, the answers on meaningful use and certification will not be the ones for which they’d hoped.

So as you ponder a legion of people with only one sock, the mystery milk-producing animals of Gilligan’s Island and the idea of other more mainstream musical instruments in the afterlife, know that at least one of your questions will soon have an answer.

3 Responses to “The Riddle Of “Meaningful Use” Soon To Be Defined”

  1. Michelle Patrick says:

    Nice blog entry Paul.

    In regards to meaningful use will it be the foundation of the for a cohesive union with Medicare, correct? Where would the States that provide Medicaid stand in regards to criteria for compliance for their own incentive payments? The state standards under Medicaid programs for the EHR seems very unprepared for this marriage under the CMS guidelines as a whole. Or should our concerns only be for Medicare after the federal final rule is created and then the States follow?

  2. Paul Spencer, CPC, CPC-H says:

    The idea, especially in regard to interoperability, is to be able to share critical medical information efficiently no matter where you are being treated in the healthcare system. The theory is that this leads to improvement in quality of care based on having easily-retrieved patient info. The only cohesion necessary with Medicare is in regard to following their billing standards so that claims can be received and payments generated electronically.
    Medicaid, being a part of CMS, will also be paying incentives on the hospital side for meaningful use of an EMR, so the states won’t be on the sidelines waiting or otherwise out of the loop, but know that this is a federal initiative.

  3. [...] systems gained CCHIT certification prior to the release of the proposed rule, which I pointed to in an earlier post as [...]

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