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Meaningful Use Final Rule Released by HHS

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, July 13, 2010

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released two long–awaited "meaningful use" final regulations this morning that will specify what physicians and hospitals will have to do to receive up to $27 billion in bonus Medicare payments for adoption of electronic health records.

One of the regulations issued today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) defines the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of certified EHR technology in order to qualify for the payments. More than 2,000 comments were received on the proposed rule, said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, at a briefing this morning.

The CMS rule announced today makes final a proposed rule issued on Jan, 13, 2010. While the proposed rule initially called on eligible professionals to meet 25 requirements (23 for hospitals) in their use of EHRs, the requirements for meaningful use incentives now are divided into core requirements that are mandatory and a menu of 10 additional requirements—of which five need to be met, according to David Blumenthal, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Only 15 core requirements are now mandatory for eligible providers and 14 are mandatory for hospitals. The percentage of patients that are required to qualify as meaningful users has been lowered for many of the criteria.

This two track approach was designed to make sure that the basic elements of meaningful EHR would be met by all providers qualifying for incentive payments—while giving latitude in other areas to reflect providers’ needs, Blumenthal added.

The other rule was issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that will assist in identifying standards and certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology.

CMS’s and ONC’s final rules complement two other recently issued HHS rules. On June 24, 2010, ONC published a final rule to establish a temporary certification program for health information technology. And on July 8, 2010, the Office for Civil Rights announced the proposed rule that would strengthen and expand privacy, security, and enforcement protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

In addition, as part of this process, HHS is establishing a nationwide network of Regional Extension Centers to assist providers in adopting and using in a meaningful way certified EHR technology.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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