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“Meaningful Use” for Ambulatory Care Medical Practices

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EHR Objectives and Measures

By Shahid N. Shah MS  

For ambulatory care practices and physicians there are about 25 objectives and measures that must be met to become a “meaningful user”. Keep in mind that meaningful use is not tied to a certified EHR alone; in fact, unless you use the EHR properly and in all the ways the government wants you to, you will not be a “meaningful user”.

Don’t be fooled by EHR vendors guaranteeing that they will make you a “meaningful user” – no vendor’s software, no matter how nice, can get your staff to use the software in the way the government wants. You, as the CIO of your practice, are the only one that can guarantee that. In fact, you don’t even need an EHR from a vendor to meet the requirements – you can even roll your own, use open source, or find any other means.

Fear and Promises

In general, as long as you can attest and send data to the government that they require you can do it in any way that you want. Be aware that some unscrupulous vendors are scaring practices and making promises that they cannot keep.

Final MU Rules

The final Meaningful Use (MU) Rule was published by HHS on July 13, 2010. It defines 24 objectives for and measures eligible hospitals that could be met to become a meaningful user and qualify for incentive funding. There is a “core set” that must be met by all institutions and a “menu set” of from which organizations must implement at least 5 objectives.

Core Set Objectives

These are the “core set” of 14 objectives that must be met by all institutions and a “menu set” of 10 from which organizations must implement at least 5 objectives (at least 1 public health objective must be chosen from that set).

  1. Use Computer Provider Order Entry (CPOE).
  2. Implement drug-drug, drug-allergy, and drug-formulary checks.
  3. Record demographics.
  4. Implement one clinical decision support rule.
  5. Maintain an up-to-date problem list of current and active diagnoses based on ICD-9-CM or SNOMED CT.
  6. Maintain active medication list.
  7. Maintain active medication allergy list.
  8. Record and chart changes in vital signs.
  9. Record smoking status for patients 13 years or older.
  10. Report hospital clinical quality measures to CMS or States.
  11. Provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information, upon request.
  12. Provide patients with an electronic copy of their discharge instructions at time of discharge, upon request.
  13. Capability to exchange key clinical information among providers of care and patient-authorized entities electronically.
  14. Protect electronic health information.

Menu Set Objectives

These are the “menu set” of 10 objectives from which organizations must implement at least 5. At least one public health objective must be chosen from this set as well (numbers 8 or 9). Drug-formulary checks.

  1. Record advanced directives for patients 65 years or older.
  2. Incorporate clinical lab test results as structured data.
  3. Generate lists of patients by specific conditions.
  4. Use certified EHR technology to identify patient-specific education resources and provide to patient, if appropriate.
  5. Medication reconciliation.
  6. Summary of care record for each transition of care/referrals.
  7. Capability to submit electronic data to immunization registries/systems.
  8. Capability to provide electronic submission of reportable lab results to public health agencies.
  9. Capability to provide electronic syndromic surveillance data to public health agencies.

Government Agencies and Participants Involved in MU

As you can see in the Figure, the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT (ONCHIT) is a component of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ONCHIT, usually abbreviated just ONC, is the principal policy group of the Federal Government that defines and manages NHIN.

Figure Link: Figure 

* ONC is responsible for coordinating with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on the specifications for the NHIN standards.

* The HIT Policy and HIT Standards Committees are the working groups that advise ONC on what to put in the standards.

* NIST is responsible for coming up with the test materials (assertions, procedures, methods, tools, data, and so on) that will be used to certify working systems 


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