Posted by:Richard Smith May 14th, 2014

The US medical world has been abuzz with the term “Meaningful Use” of EHRs for a while now. So what is meant by the “Meaningful Use” of EHRs?

Meaningful Use (MU) is a set of “rules” defined by the CMS Incentive Program that governs the use of electronic health records. Its goal is to promote the spread of electronic health records to improve healthcare in the United States. Meaningful Use means “providers need to show they’re using certified EHR technology in ways that can be measured significantly in quality and in quantity.”

In the recent times, mobile technology has garnered a lot of popularity and has established a strong foothold in the healthcare industry. Healthcare mobility solutions or mHealthsolutions, as they are frequently referred to, offer clinicians fast and easy access to electronic health records and help engage patients in their own health data. Incidentally these features find a prominent place in the MU requirements – glimpses of the potential that mHealth holds to help Providers/Hospitals meet Meaningful Use compliance.

Until now, the buzz around mobile health (mHealth) technology seems to have been about its potential to make healthcare cheaper and more efficient while perhaps improving outcomes. However this does not help when it comes to bearing the ever rising healthcare expenses. Now mHealth is being considered as a critical factor for enabling Meaningful Use compliance in clinical workflows and thereby helping physicians and hospitals receive the MU incentives. With smartphones/tablet usage skyrocketing, providers can take advantage of the growing cadre of mobile health tools to help them meet their Meaningful Use goals.

Common questions amongst healthcare clients are “how will having a mobile app portfolio help me meet the Meaningful Use requirements?” or “so what exactly is out there in the mobile world to help hospitals and practices achieve their Meaningful use requirements?”

Examples of few features that gather a lot of attention in MU requirements wherein mHealthtechnologies can be leveraged include:

  1. Electronic messaging: The use of electronic messaging in healthcare is not new and the MU requirements has now made it a mandate. This has resulted in opening an avenue for both providers and patients to exploit the readily available mobile networks and gadgets.
  2. ePrescription: Mobile apps performing e-prescribing and drug interaction look-ups can also go a long way in helping providers/hospitals meet the MU criteria relating to e-prescription.
  3. Patient engagement: Engaging patients and giving them access to their health data is a major tenet of meaningful use. Patient portals available in smartphones lets patients see data as well as interact in some ways, such as booking appointments, messaging providers, receiving notifications for preventive care visits due, accessing after-visit summaries and viewing lab test results.
  4. Online access to health information: This MU requirement relates to the accessibility of online patient portals wherein patients can access their health information. Accessing the same in desktops may lead to security concerns. However, due to the personal nature of smartphones and tablets, it is possible to pre-configure access rights to patient portal for individual users.

Meaningful Use is a health initiative that came out of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. It’s an attempt to modernize the way healthcare providers share information with each other and the patients they treat. It’s also an attempt to improve healthcare outcomes by improving and expanding that sharing in targeted ways. These visions sound very familiar! Yes, this is where mHealth and Meaningful Use objectives converge. As realized through the numerous examples on the role of mHealth in healthcare workflows, the time is now ripe to utilize mobile technology in the most ‘meaningful’ way possible.

In my next post lets dig deeper on “Meaningful Use of Healthcare IT” and see how mobile technology can be leveraged to take control over the Meaningful Use rage!

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