Posted by:Richard Smith May 29th, 2014

The Meaningful Use (MU) wave began in the year 2010 with the release of proposed rules for the EHR incentive program. The HIT industry was hurled into a whirlwind and “Meaningful Use” became the buzz word since then. Although Electronic Health Records (EHRs) had started establishing its existence, the question now was how would one measure the success or benefits of adopting this change in the healthcare industry? Meaningful Useconcept came as an answer, and thus was born the era of value driven healthcare treatments…

“Doctors and Patients lost in paper work”, was the achilles heel that led to the plan of incentivizing doctors for the “Meaningful Use” of EHR technology.

Meaningful Use of HIT is a blanket label for rules and regulations (designed in phases) that hospitals and physicians must meet to qualify for the federal incentive funding under ARRA.

Meaningful Use is the first step towards achieving that end goal of a healthcare model that focuses on improving the quality of health care while controlling the cost.

HITECH Act (provisions within ARRA of 2009) provides hospitals and providers with an opportunity to earn federal funding bonus incentives on being MU compliant. EHR incentives can be earned through Medicare or Medicaid.

The path to achieving MU has been broken down into 3 stages/phases:

  1. Stage 1 (Build): Applicable for 2011 and 2012. Focuses on capturing and communicating health information in a structured format.
  2. Stage 2 (Use): Starts in 2014. Expands on Stage 1 requirements. Focuses on improving the care of individual patients. Emphasizes on the exchange of health information. More demanding requirements on e-Prescribing, use of structured lab results and transmission of patient summaries.
  3. Stage 3 (Demonstrate results): Expected to start in 2016. Expands on Stage 1 and 2 requirements. Focuses on driving improved outcomes through advanced decision support systems, access to comprehensive patient data and improve population health.

MU is being perceived as the most comprehensive change that has rocked US healthcare. Regardless of the pros and cons associated with MU, it is impossible to deny the EHR Incentive Program’s positive impact on the implementation of healthcare IT.

MU has ushered in a scenario where EHRs are perceived as a necessity rather than an option for a successful medical practice.

Does Meaningful Use require the Mobile Magic?

Mobile technologies could play a huge role in meeting the federal MU regulations according to a recent mHIMSS post. One of the prominent Stage 2 requirements revolves around patient engagement, wherein the patients would be required to view and download their health data. This opens an enormous opportunity for the EHRs to harness the ubiquity of mobile devices making health information available via smartphones, laptops, tablet PCs and ipads.

Although the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) do not explicitly address medical devices while designing MU requirements, they have come forward with a strategic vision for EHR meaningful use utilizing mobile devices for inclusion in future stages of the Meaningful Use Objectives and Measures:

  • In 2013, as part of the priority on engaging patients and family, data from mobile health devices should be incorporated; and
  • In 2015, meaningful use of an EHR should include medical device interoperability.

Meaningful Use has become a test bed for the uses of wireless technologies to meet meaningful use objectives. mHIMSS workgroup members have been actively involved in coming up with inputs on how the use of mHealth technologies can assist in achieving the goals and objectives of the meaningful use program during the recent Stage 2 comment period.

The Meaningful Use App

As mHealth continues to infiltrate the lives of patients and providers alike, recently there was news on a mobile app designed to update the user on how close they are to qualifying for Meaningful Use requirements based on a “progress bar” displayed. As the bar fills up, the provider gets closer and closer to attesting.

As ONC continues to serve a role in advancing HIT to assist in the adoption of HIT, it is also interested in keeping an open dialog on how the industry can evaluate and implement mobile technologies in the most ‘meaningful’ way possible. There is little doubt to the fact that finding the right mobile apps and devices will help providers achieve MU milestones faster and easier.

In the upcoming post we will know in more detail how mobile technologies can potentially help providers achieve MU compliance.

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