Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

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'Meaningful use' could be facilitated by PHRs, says ONC official

The Health and Human Services Department’s proposed rules for the “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) may facilitate some uses of personal health record (PHR) systems, according to Joshua Seidman, acting director of the meaningful use division in HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

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Seidman, speaking on Jan. 25 at the eHealth Initiative conference in Washington, explained how PHRs might fit into meaningful use.

HHS did not specifically mention PHRs in its nearly 700 pages of proposed regulations released last Dec. 30 for meaningful use of EHRs. The department is distributing more than $17 billion in economic stimulus law funding to doctors and hospitals that meaningfully use digital record systems. The rule contains about two dozen objectives for the providers to meet to prove they are using the technology to improve quality.

PHR systems typically are digital storage applications in which a patient can collect and maintain a comprehensive health record. 

The HHS notice of proposed rulemaking did not require use of such systems, but does not exclude them. Some of its meaningful use objectives could facilitiate use of personal health record systems, according  to Seidman.

“We wanted to make sure we were not stifling innovation,” Seidman said. “We designed by functions. ... We did not want to define a particular product.”

For example, in the quality objectives related to doctors delivering information electronically to patients about their health record, presumably that could be fulfilled by delivering a patient's record to a PHR system.

Microsoft and Google are among the giant vendors that have placed a bet on personal health record applications. So there is a lot at stake in this discussion.

Seidman joined the national coordinator's office in November 2009.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:14 PM


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