What is 'meaningful use?'

Health IT committee tries to refine the term

A federal advisory panel is tweaking its proposed definition of health information technology to address various gaps and concerns. The definition is important because the 2009 economic stimulus law provides funding only for health care providers who make "meaningful use" of electronic health records.

The Health IT Policy Committee is considering a three-tiered framework for defining and setting benchmarks for meaningful use of health IT based on recommendations from one of the committee’s workgroups. Congress mandated the creation of the policy committee to help develop criteria for health IT adoption and certification under the economic stimulus law. The policy committee will advise the national coordinator for health IT, who will forward ideas to the Health and Human Services Department for use in a rule-making process later this year.

The workgroup proposed that meaningful use be linked to outcomes such as reducing by half the number of preventable hospitalizations, medication errors and racial disparities in diabetes control by 2015. Other suggested goals were preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes and providing patients with access to electronic health records.

The proposed framework would include criteria for capturing and sharing data starting in 2011. Next, in 2013, providers would have to begin using the data to establish care processes that increase success. Then they would have to measure their progress and meet their outcome goals by 2015.

Some committee members raised concerns about the framework.

Christine Bechtel, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said patients need to be able to use their records to improve care, not just obtain access. “Access is not an outcome,” she said.

Setting privacy and security of patient electronic records as an explicit outcome in 2015 would reinforce those goals, said Roger Baker, chief information officer at the Veterans Affairs Department. “Having privacy and security as part of the vision is key,” he said.

The policy committee will accept public comments on the preliminary definition of meaningful use until June 26 and will discuss it further at the panel’s next meeting, on July 16.

About the Author

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

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1986, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group