Misconceptions Around Meaningful Use

I was reading an online forum today and was blown away by something someone said about meaningful use:

The “Meaningful Use” stages can only be met if the systems are easy to use and the data is accessible in a timely matter. This will mean that EHR/EMR systems will need in-depth analytical capabilities or the information accessible by Business Intelligence systems that understand healthcare.

Healthcare organizations that understand this will be able to tap into the upwards of millions of dollars set aside by the government in the stimulus package.

Ok, I can’t really knock the fact that EMR software needs to be easy to use. I think they probably meant to say that the EMR vendor needs to make it easy to enter the data required to show “meaningful use.” This seems like a given that every EMR vendor that wants their users to get EMR stimulus money should consider. Sadly, I think they’re likely to find this a VERY difficult task.

Although, what bothers me about this quote is the idea that you need some sort of in-depth analytical capabilities or some sort of BI (Business Intelligence) system to show meaningful use. Take a quick look at this simple meaningful use matrix or the list of 25 meaningful use objectives. Which of the criteria requires this in depth analysis and BI? None of them. At most they’re a pretty simple report.

Now I’m not saying that meeting the requirements of meaningful use is easy. However, the work around meaningful use is around the entry of the data and ensuring that you’re entering the data for all 25 meaningful use objectives. The hard part isn’t accessing the data once it’s in the EMR.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • The only responsibility the provider has is to collate and send meaningful use data to the CMS; at the EHR vendor I work for, such data will be collated by a local RHIO (Regional Health Information Organization) and sent to CMS directly. Our software also has the capability to collate and transmit such data on its own.

    The real issue is the format that CMS will require for collation and transmittal; it will most likely be easier for a local RHIO or the state Dept. of Health or CMS office to do so, rather than require individual providers to do so.

    This would also take the burden off the individual provider and allow the EHR vendors to comply with the HITECH Act, which requires them to ease the burden on individual providers for collecting and submitting such information.

  • Marc,
    Are RHIO going to be able to do the reporting to CMS for providers? Not are they capable (which is another interesting question), but will CMS allow them to report for the providers. I guess the capable is interesting too since you might ask if the RHIO will have all of the EHR data that’s needed to show a provider’s meaningful use.

    I honestly haven’t seen many practical details for how CMS will handle all of this. How did it work with PQRI reporting requirements?

    Plus, add in the fact that each state Medicaid office will likely receive reports, it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle it. Is that another 6 months out before we know these details?

  • Those are all great questions, John. Here are my best educated guesses:

    It’s hard to give any answer with any certainty until the industry and goverment iron out a few things first: when all stakeholders work out a more definitive definition of “meaningful use” sometime in December; who the certifying body for ensuring EHR systems comply with the reporting requirements; what specific functionality is required for EHRs to collate and submit meaningful use data; and how the CMS decides who will be submitting such data, and in what format.

    The advantage of having such reporting done by local RHIOS is that they have specifically been set up to collect and submit such data, and can do it more efficiently and with less burden to the provider than having a dozen different EHR vendors, whose systems don’t talk to each other, have individual physicians submit the data. There is also a mandate that the systems and procedures be in place to take as much of the burden off individual providers as possible. RHIOs permit the collation and submission of such data from a centralized database, the purpose of which is to enhance the public health.

    My guess is that the RHIOs will become the database and submission system for the state Medicare and and Medicaid offices, who will in turn submit their state’s data to the CMS, since the Medicare incentive payments are realized as an increase in the percentage rate by which the physician is reimbursed by Medicare, rather than as a lump-sum payment, and it is the state Medicare and Medicaid offices that disburse funding to the local Medicare providers.

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