Feeling meaningfully used

They say everybody's a critic. These days, everybody's a pundit, too. That's particularly true when it comes to "meaningful use" of EMRs.

On Tuesday morning, CMS of course released its final rule on meaningful use and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology issued the related rule on EMR standards and certification. Here it is more than 48 hours later and I'm still trying to catch up on my email--not to mention find time to peruse the 864-page CMS rule, thanks in no small part to the desire of every vendor, consultant and industry watcher out there to offer to comment on what it all means. (Another health IT journalist I know said he was feeling "meaningfully used" by last night, and I felt compelled to steal that line.)

Just to give you an idea, here's a partial list of companies and organizations I've heard from directly since the regulations came out: the National Partnership for Women & Families; Computer Sciences Corp.; Dell Services (the former Perot Systems); Iron Mountain; Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Systems; Eclipsys (which is in the process of merging with Allscripts); Hielix; the American Health Information Management Association; the Medical Group Management Association; the The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives; the Markle Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings (in a joint statement); UnitedHealth Group; Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for Lasting EMR Adoption authors Dr. Heather Haugen and Dr. Jeffrey Woodside; the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs; and Deloitte. For a little variety, Nuance Healthcare General Manager Janet Dillione--a former Siemens Healthcare boss--put her comments on video. Carlos Nunez, chief physician executive at Picis put his thoughtful comments in blog form.

That list, of course, doesn't include the myriad others that didn't contact me directly.

So, what did all those vendors, consulting firms, professional organizations and interest groups--plus one major insurance company--have to say? Pretty much the same thing.

"We are encouraged by the release of the meaningful use final rule. This is a positive step to promote policies that encourage physicians, other health professionals and hospitals to adopt technology that meaningfully advances the quality, cost-effectiveness and interoperability of healthcare delivery," is what UnitedHealth offered.

"These regulations provide a promising foundation for encouraging the effective use of health information to improve patient care. With coming payment reforms, these incentives will give doctors and hospitals needed support for improving health care quality and efficiency," said former CMS Administrator and current Brookings scholar Dr. Mark McClellan.

"It's definitely time to begin a coordinated effort to implement electronic health records by providers nationwide," CHIME President and CEO Richard Correll said. "We have been supportive of the federal government's actions to encourage widespread implementation of EHRs, and we are increasing our educational programming in support of our members' efforts to succeed in this new era of IT adoption," he added.

A few--Iron Mountain and Allscripts come to mind--took the time to explain some of the details of the regulations. Others crowed that CMS made changes they had suggested during the public comment period. (CMS and ONC received more than 2,000 comments. Imagine having to read through all that.)

And some just wanted reporters to know they had people at the ready, willing to comment on the rule. I wonder how many actually got calls back? There were so many options to choose from that I decided not to pick up the phone at all.

Yes, some triteness seeped into the comments, too. I'd like to propose the phrase "look forward to" be banished from professional usage. "We look forward to reviewing the final rule in detail," is what Markle, the Center for American Progress and the Engelberg Center at Brookings said in their joint statement. Really, you do? You look forward to reading 864 pages of CMS regulatory mumbo-jumbo and another 228 pages from ONC? I sure don't. I look forward to the weekend so I don't have to hear "meaningful use" for a couple of days. - Neil