Committee considers changes to meaningful use definition of EHRs

Panel is advising HHS on Electronic Health Records rulemaking

The federal Health Information Technology Policy Committee is considering whether hospitals and doctors need more guidance on exchanging lab data and more flexibility to use open-source and self-developed software to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs).

The committee, which advises the Health and Human Services Department, will consider several clarifications and adjustments to HHS’ recent proposed regulations at its scheduled meeting on Feb. 17.

On Jan. 13, HHS published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on distribution of $17 billion to doctors and hospitals that can demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs, and the Interim Final Rule on certification of record systems that can achieve those goals.


Related story:

Proposed rules set stage for e-health record incentives


The health IT policy panel is considering recommending modifications in several areas. For one, it is examining whether the certification procedure needs to offer more clarity for self-developed digital record systems and open source record systems, according to a report from the Adoption/Certification Workgroup included in the agenda for the meeting.


Also, providers may need more guidance on calculating the metrics required under the HHS rule. For example, hospitals and doctors need to electronically collect data on allergies and smoking status for at least 80 percent of their patients.

However, the workgroup report said that leaves a bit of uncertainty, and clarification may be needed on whether doctors and hospitals should calculate the metrics precisely, or whether it is acceptable to make rough estimates or to use statistical analysis.

Another area for possible clarification in the rulemaking is exchange of lab data, for which there are fewer recognized standards, according to a report from the Information Exchange Workgroup.

Also proposed for change is that hospitals and doctors that have been convicted of significant civil or criminal violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act should be prohibited from receiving meaningful use incentive payments.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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