Providers unsure about EHR 'meaningful use' provisions

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“Meaningful use” requirements providers must meet for Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record incentive programs continue to concern caregivers.

Witnesses at a federal hearing on the issue Jan. 11 were clear in their frustration about the complexity of the requirements, as well as whether they matched up with realities of the market.

All of the witnesses at the Health IT Standards Committee Implementation Workgroup hearing were advanced EHR users. The committee is an advisory panel that reports to Dr. David Blumenthal, the government's national health  IT coordinator.

Physicians and hospital representatives asked the Department of Health and Human Services to allow more flexibility and time to meet goals. They also asked HHS to simplify requirements.

“An onerous, difficult and time-consuming process” is how Joanne Sunquist, CIO at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, described the process of creating reports necessary to illustrate that meaningful use objectives were being met.

While long-term care providers currently are not directly eligible to apply for the incentive funding, they are expected feel the impact of whatever progress is made among other providers they will transition with.

Nursing homes and other post-acute providers also are included in the George W. Bush goal of having “all” healthcare entities achieve a certain level of digital record competence by 2014.

Skepticism of the five witnesses at the workgroup hearing was offset by separate survey results displaying provider confidence.

The American Hospital Association conducted a survey on behalf of the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT that found that a whopping 81% of hospitals planned to meet EHR meaningful use goals and apply for federal incentive money.