At long last, the Department of Health and Human Services released official rules for Stage 1 of the meaningful use Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive program on July 13. The 24 objectives were broken up into two groups by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): core objectives that are required to be fulfilled by hospitals and physicians, respectively, and additional important activities, of which a certain number must be implemented within the first two years of the program. Some of the rules, like those dictating percentages for electronic prescriptions, were relaxed; providers will only have to write 40 percent of their prescriptions electronically, reduced from 75 percent.
In early May, several "beacon communities" that will serve as national models for EHR and health IT adoption were announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Vice President Joe Biden. Initially, 15 communities in all--each set to receive a portion of $220 million--were revealed. Two additional communities were added at the end of the month.