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A Beginner's Guide to Meaningful Use

By Carly Stewart

What is “Meaningful Use,” anyhow? I am sure you have heard this phrase buzzing around and are curious to find out what it is and how it relates to you, so we are going to make it very simple for you with this brief summary.

Definitions:

EHR- Electronic Health Record: EHRs focus on the overall health of the patient. This includes all of the information collected by all of the clinicians involved in caring for a patient. EHRs are created in order to share information among health providers no matter where the patient goes. If the patient changes doctors or moves to a different state the information would follow them to their new clinicians and be made accessible to not only the doctors but to the patient as well.

EMR- Electronic Medical Record: An EMR is similar to an EHR except it only includes information for patients from a single practice. The clinicians at this particular practice alone are responsible for creating, managing, and updating the records over the course of their care. These however, do not easily move between practices. 

Both of these electronic means do have advantages over paper records in that the storage and retrieval processes of information are easier as well as the modification of these records.

Meaningful use is acquired when Eligible Professionals use electronic means meaningfully and can then hopefully qualify for incentive payments through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.

Of course, there are criteria that must be met. Stage one was implemented in 2011-2012 in which the criteria focused upon data capture and sharing. The details of which can be found here:

http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/how-attain-meaningful-use

Now that Stage One is complete, stage two will begin in 2014. This section focuses on more advanced clinical processes that include more patient controlled-data, increased requirements for e-prescribing and lab results and electronic transmissions of patient care summaries across multiple settings.

Each Stage has a list of specific objectives that must be completed including “Core Objectives,” all of which must be completed, and “Menu Objectives,” which only a few must be.

Different amounts of these objectsives must be completed depending upon your clinic type. “Eligible Professionals” must achieve 15 core objectives, 5 of the ten menu set objectives and 6 clinical quality measures as opposed to “Eligible Hospitals/CAHs” which must complete 14 core objectives, 5 menu set objectives and 15 clinical quality measures.

To see some of these specific objectives visit here:

https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/downloads/EP-MU-TOC.pdf

What does this mean for patients? Patients will eventually have more ease in going from one clinic to another and have all of their information automatically (but safely) accessible to their doctors.  An entire patient history can be created so that if an emergency happens the paramedic can quickly see current medications, allergies and recent injuries or surgeries that can save a life.

Stay tuned for further explanations and updates with Meaningful Use as Stage two goes into effect.