March 25th, 2015
Six years ago, President Obama signed into law the HITECH Act, which spelled out a path to a nationwide health information technology infrastructure. The goal was simple: every doctor, nurse, and hospital in America should use electronic health records — and do it in a way that leads to better care delivered more efficiently. The Act provided $30 billion in incentives for providers and hospitals who met the criteria for “Meaningful Use”, which the Obama administration was given the authority to define. The rules were set up to be rolled out in three stages, and while the first two stages have been out for a while, the criteria for the third and final stage of Meaningful Use (MU) were finally released on March 20.
David Blumenthal, the first national coordinator under HITECH, used the analogy of the Meaningful Use program as an escalator — with the first stage focused on just getting people on board and each stage requiring a higher level of use — which would focus on demonstrating better care through advanced EHR use. Put more simply, the goal of the three stages was to first get providers to just start using EHRs, and then over time to get them to use the systems more frequently, more robustly, and ultimately, in ways that lead to better, more efficient care.
The new stage 3 rule reflects both the successes and the failures of the first two stages. It moves toward making the EHR market more open and competitive, and providing more choices, in ways that I think are helpful — but possibly not helpful enough.Read the rest of this entry »