Health providers learn long-awaited definition

January 6, 2010

Doctors and hospitals could get billions in federal subsidies to help them adopt electronic health record systems. But the money hinges on the health care providers' achieving “meaningful use” of those records, according to the 2009 stimulus bill that approved the subsidies.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally defined the “meaningful use” standard, according to Modern Healthcare magazine.

Under the proposed regulation, electronic health records must improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care; reduce health care disparities; engage patients and their families; improve coordination of care with other providers; improve population and public health; and ensure the privacy and security of personal medical information.

HHS plans to dole out subsidies totaling $14.1 billion to $27.3 billion between 2011 and 2014. Hospitals and doctors that do not meet the "meaningful use" standard by 2015 would face reductions in pay from the federal Medicare insurance program.

A survey last month by New York-based consulting firm CSC found that only one-quarter of U.S. hospitals meet even 70 percent of the federal government's standards.

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