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'Meaningful use' criteria released

HHS issued two sets of much-anticipated federal regulations that significantly further the government's healthcare information technology adoption agenda. The first set of regulations lists the “meaningful use” criteria that healthcare providers must meet to qualify for federal IT subsidies based on how they use their electronic health records. The second set of regulations lays out the standards and certification criteria that those EHRs must meet for their users to collect the money.


Between $14.1 billion and $27.3 billion is at stake, which was made available under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The meaningful use regulations are proposed regulations subject to a 60-day public comment period after which HHS would issue final regulations. The EHR certification regulations are interim final regulations that take effect in 30 days with a 60-day public comment period. HHS said final regulations will be published in 2010.

Under the proposed meaningful use regulations, eligible healthcare providers must use their EHRs to: improve the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare services; reduce healthcare disparities; engage patients and their families; improve the coordination of care; improve population and public health; and ensure the privacy and security of personal medical information.

Under the interim final EHR regulations, EHRs must be able to securely exchange information among providers and between providers and patients using standardized data elements and technologies. The regulations outline standardized formats for such things as clinical summaries; medical descriptions of clinical conditions and test results; and how that information is exchanged over the Internet.

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