The Meaningful Use rule was adopted as part of a series of regulations implementing the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Under that law, doctors, healthcare professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt and meaningfully use certified electronic health record (EHR) technology. The HITECH Act also imposes Medicare payment penalties on providers who don’t meet meaningful use standards by the year 2015.
The program is divided into three stages:
- Stage 1 sets the basic functionalities electronic health records must include such as capturing data electronically and providing patients with electronic copies of health information.
- Stage 2 (which will begin as early as 2014) increases health information exchange between providers and promotes patient engagement by giving patients secure online access to their health information.
- Stage 3 will continue to expand meaningful use objectives to improve health care outcomes.
In each stage CMS establishes a number of “core objectives” and measures to achieve those objectives. Objectives established at one stage are carried over, often with modifications, into the subsequent stages.