Health IT group wants incentives for EHRs

An organization that represents providers and users of health information technology wants the Obama administration to take an incremental approach to require doctors and hospitals to show “meaningful use” of electronic health records to qualify for money under the economic stimulus law.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) on April 27 published on its Web site its proposed definition of “meaningful use” under the law. Congress specified that $17 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments will be distributed to doctors and hospitals who can demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs.

Defining meaningful use is the next step in implementing the administration’s program for health IT. Separately, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics started holding public meetings April 28 to help define that term.

HIMSS recommended setting requirements in incremental stages, with performance benchmarks to begin in 2011, to set reasonable goals for doctors and hospitals.

“HIMSS recognizes that defining meaningful use is a complex endeavor. In order for the nation to benefit from the spirit and intent of the [law], and for hospitals to have a reasonable chance of achieving the definition, HIMSS asserts that the requirements must be introduced — and made increasingly stringent — in incremental stages,” the group posted.

HIMSS recommended that the administration require hospitals and doctors to show use of an EHR certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information technology, and to show demonstrated ability to exchange standardized patient data and quality data. Hospitals also should meet interoperability specifications and must have capabilities to support measurements of patient safety, quality outcomes and cost reductions, the group states.

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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