Federal Government Issues New Health IT Regulations

CMS Proposes Definition of EHR 'Meaningful Use'

January 06, 2010 07:45 pm News Staff

The federal government is one step closer to defining the term "meaningful use" as it pertains to electronic health records, or EHRs.

On Dec. 30, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, each issued a set of regulations that, together, lay a foundation for improving the quality, efficiency and safety of the nation's health care through the use of certified EHR technology.

The nation's hospitals, physicians and other health care professionals have a stake in the outcome of the rules process because the regulations will help implement government EHR incentive programs enacted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

According to an HHS news release(www.hhs.gov), the proposed rule issued by CMS outlines provisions governing EHR incentive programs, including the definition of meaningful use of health information technology. The interim final regulation issued by the ONC sets initial standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria for EHR technology.

In the news release, David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., national coordinator for health information technology, said widespread adoption of EHRs would improve the efficiency, quality and safety of the nation's health care system.

"Over time, we believe the EHR incentive program under Medicare and Medicaid will accelerate and facilitate health information technology adoption by more individual providers and organizations throughout the health care system," he said.

CMS' proposed rule and the ONC's interim final rule(edocket.access.gpo.gov) are open to a 60-day public comment period.

Steven Waldren, M.D., M.S., director of the AAFP's Center for Health IT, told AAFP News Now that he and his staff were reading and analyzing the 600-plus pages of rules.

He said the Academy would submit comments to CMS and the ONC within the given period after the Center for Health IT determines how it will suggest refining the rules to best fit the needs of family physicians.

"The Academy will also need to create a set of resources to help members work through this new regulatory environment," said Waldren.