CMS defines meaningful use, ACP responds

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Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued final rules defining meaningful use of electronic health records, which physician practices and hospitals must meet in order to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.

Two companion final rules were announced. One regulation, issued by CMS, defines the minimum requirements that providers must meet through their use of certified EHR technology in order to qualify for the payments. The rule includes modifications that address concerns raised by stakeholders, according to a CMS press release. For example, as originally proposed the rule called on eligible professionals to meet 25 requirements (23 for hospitals) in their use of EHRs, but the final rule divides the requirements into a core group of requirements that must be met, plus an additional menu of procedures from which providers may choose. A summary overview of the requirements and a discussion of the rule by CMS leaders were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The other rule, issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), identifies the standards and certification criteria for EHR technology, so providers may be assured that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions.

ACP Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer John Tooker, MACP, responded to the rules' release in a letter sent on Thursday to the administrators of CMS and ONC. Overall, ACP is pleased with the administration's responses to the core issues regarding meaningful use and is supportive of the direction in which the rules move the health IT community. However, the College does have some remaining concerns, which College representatives intend to review with CMS and ONC.

Dr. Tooker said the rules are encouraging and lead ACP to believe that the remaining issues about which the College has concerns can be addressed through continued dialogue, clarification, and collaboration on future rule-making.