Meaningful use (MU), in a health information technology (HIT) context, defines the use of electronic health records (EHR) and related technology within a healthcare organization. Achieving meaningful use also helps determine whether an organization will receive payments from the federal government under either the Medicare EHR Incentive Program or the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.
According to the provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009,organizations that are eligible for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program and achieve meaningful use by 2014 will be eligible for incentive payments; those who have failed to achieve that standard by 2015 may be penalized. To receive the maximum reimbursement, physicians and hospitals must achieve stage 1 of meaningful use of EHR for at least a 90-day period within the 2011 or 2012 federal fiscal year and for the entire year thereafter.
Those eligible for the Medicaid program must demonstrate meaningful use by 2016 in order to receive incentive payments.
The Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) worked with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and other parts of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish regulations for stage 1 of the meaningful use incentive program.
The working group will also establish criteria to determine stages 2 and 3 of meaningful use. Criteria for stage 2 of meaningful use, which will begin in 2014, have been proposed and are expected to be finalized in early 2012. Criteria for stage 3 of meaningful use will be defined at a later date.