May 2009 | | Issue 5

Defining Key ARRA Funding Clause

As HHS attempts to clarify the details of the ARRA HITECH stimulus legislation and create a health IT incentive program, the National Council on Vital and Health Statistics held a hearing April 28th through 29th on "meaningful use" of health information technology. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, HHS must define that term before the end of 2009.

Meanwhile, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) officials announced their group has published its own definitions of "meaningful use" related to certified electronic health record (EHR) technologies and hospitals' use of EHRs. The announcement coincided with the start of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics Executive Subcommittee's hearings to define the "meaningful use" phrase.

The economic stimulus package establishes Medicare incentive payments for physicians and hospitals that meet the requirements of "meaningful use" of EHRs. HIMSS officials recommended that the requirements of meaningful use be introduced incrementally so that healthcare providers have a reasonable opportunity to comply with the definition. According to HIMSS, the mature definition of "meaningful use of certified electronic health records" should include at least four factors:

  • A functional EHR certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare IT;
  • Electronic exchange of standardized patient data with clinical and administrative stakeholders using the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel's interoperability guidelines and integrating the Healthcare Enterprise's frameworks;
  • Clinical decision support; and,
  • Capabilities to support process and care measurements that fuel improvements in patient safety, quality outcomes and cost savings.

HIMSS recommended that CCHIT be named the certifying body for EHR technology and sent its recommendations on the definition of "meaningful use" to the national coordinator for health IT and the acting CMS commissioner.