'Meaningful use' proposal would extend deadlines, open up certification

The highly anticipated second draft of a definition for "meaningful use" of health IT to qualify for federal stimulus funding came out as promised last week, and proposes loosening some of the original standards and injecting some competition into EMR certification.

The Health IT Policy Committee, an HHS advisory group, spelled out a list of, and a timetable for, various health IT objectives for 2011, 2013 and 2015. It also effectively gives healthcare providers until 2014 to achieve meaningful use based on initial criteria for 2011, though latecomers may not be eligible for all possible funding. "We thought there was a kind of double jeopardy in that, if a provider couldn't make the 2011 or 2012 criteria, and coming into 2013 the bar would be raised higher, it's almost like you can't get into the game at all," committee member Dr. Paul Tang said. "We're trying to find a way for people to participate even if it's a little bit delayed."

Also, the committee rebuked longstanding claims that the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology bestowed a sort of "Good Housekeeping seal" to certified EMRs, and recommended that there be other certification entities.

As the Health IT Policy Committee was issuing its plan, the Clinical Quality Workgroup of the affiliated Health IT Standards Committee was recommending 31 standards for performance and data capture that can help demonstrate meaningful use. Most already have the endorsement of the National Quality Forum.

To learn more about the hot topic of meaningful use:
- read this Government Health IT story
- see this Health Data Management piece on the future of certification
- check out this iHealthBeat piece on the open-source community's reaction to the plan
- learn about some of the 31 measures in the Clinical Quality Workgroup plan by reading this Federal Computer Week story

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