Department of Health & Human Services Issues Regulations Related to the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program
As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ("Act"), which was signed into to law on February 17, 2009, financial incentives were made available to those eligible healthcare providers that deploy and use certified electronic health record (EHR) technology. The Act also required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enact regulations to distribute the incentives to the eligible providers.
On January 13, 2010, HHS issued proposed regulations outlining various provisions related to the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program, with the most notable being the guidelines defining the “meaningful use” of EHR technology. HHS has proposed a phased approach in defining and implementing the meaningful use criteria.
Phase 1 of the criteria will focus on capturing health information in a coded format. The emphasis will be on tracking clinical conditions and communicating the information for care coordination purposes, implementing clinical decision support tools to facilitate disease management, and reporting clinical quality measures and public health information. Phase 2 will expand on the stage 1 criteria to encourage the use of health IT for continuous quality improvement at the point of care and the exchange of information through computerized provider order entry and electronic transmission of diagnostic test (such as: lab tests, cardiac imaging, etc.) results. The proposed timeline for the phase 2 implementation is December, 2011. Phase 3 will focus on promoting improvements in quality, safety and efficiency with an emphasis on patient access to self management tools, access to comprehensive patient data and improving population health. For this phase, the proposed implementation date is December, 2013.
Since the regulations are proposed, there is a 60 day comment period from the date the regulations were issued. The full text of the Proposed Regulations can be found here.
On the same January date, HHS also published related interim final rules on the Initial Set of Standards, Implementation Specifications, and Certification for Electronic Health Record Technology. These regulations will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication. The final rule will be issued sometime in 2010. The full text of the Interim Final Regulations can be found here.
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