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Meaningful Use or Useful Life? Can Both Exist?

Jim Molpus, for HealthLeaders Media, January 10, 2012

People who make and sell "stuff" love living in a disposable economy. The idea that you can sell a product or manufactured item in such a way that it will need to be replaced by its next version in a year or two or three makes for a nice, repeatable bottom line.

I'm sure many of you can relate to how I spent the holidays, which are the disposable economy at its worst. Like any parent, for me the day after Christmas was for exchanging the karaoke CD player that flat didn't work, and throwing away the radio-controlled helicopter that lasted all of two bumpy flights.

You almost expect anything that has on on/off switch made for kids to break before the box is thrown away these days. Add to that the two-year-old leaf blower that started to smoke and the still shiny kitchen faucet that turned into a garden hose. Even if you did have the time to research and order replacement parts, the market tilts to make it cheaper, quicker, and much easier to buy a new one.

Is it the same with electronic medical record systems? In an industry still as woefully unwired as healthcare, it makes sense to focus for now on spreading access and utilization. CMS' "meaningful use" objectives are meant to do just that and not much more. The core components of meaningful use are all performance objectives that must be met incrementally between this year and 2015.

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