Karen DeSalvo: Meaningful Use 'healthy and growing steadily'

The Meaningful Use incentive program is "on track," as providers use their electronic health records as tools to improve care, communicate with patients and participate in health reform initiatives, according to new National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo.

In a Jan. 17 blog post, DeSalvo points to the latest data brief issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which reveals that nearly 80 percent of office based physicians used an EHR, an increase of 60 percent since 2001.

The data brief also reports that half of those physicians say they use a "basic" EHR system, up from 11 percent in 2006, and an increase of 21 percent from 2012 to 2013. Sixty-nine percent state that they intend to participate or have already applied to participate in the Meaningful Use program. Thirteen percent say that they had the capability to support 14 of the 17 core Stage 2 core set objectives "before 2014 certified products were even available," DeSalvo points out. Still, she acknowledges that there's room for improvement, particularly in the use of EHRs to communicate with patients.

"Overall, we are encouraged to see that physician adoption of EHRs meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2 is increasing significantly and that physicians are recognizing the value of EHRs in the care setting," DeSalvo says. "The report does also tell us there is more to do and we agree."

However, a review of the actual report, as is often the case, provides a more comprehensive and nuanced view of the program. The NCHS data brief states that the 13 percent with 2014 capability may be an "overstatement," and that more than half (56 percent) admit that they did not have the capability to support most of the core set objectives for Stage 2.

The report also glosses over the fact that many of the 69 percent planning to participate are likely referring to Stage 1 of the program. At least one study has already revealed that many physicians will drop out of the program as it moves into Stage 2.

To learn more:
- read the blog post
- here's the CDC report (.pdf)