HIMSS offers ONC meaningful use definitions
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Monday published its definitions of ‘meaningful use' and 'certified EHR technologies,' as outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), in a letter to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of Health IT and the Acting CMS Commissioner, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In summary, the society recommended the following:
  • To recognize CCHIT as the certifying body of EHRs;
  • To achieve incremental maturation of "meaningful use," adopt metrics that can be reasonably captured and reported beginning in FY11/2011, and then made increasingly stringent using intervals of not less than two years. HIMSS' definitions include specific metrics to enact, in phases, over a multi-year period;
  • To bridge existing gaps in interoperability of health information, coordinate with HITSP and IHE to create new harmonized standards and implementation guides; and
  • Reconcile the gap between "certified EHR technologies," "best of breed," and "open-source" technologies.
The ARRA calls for multiple years of Medicare incentive payments to hospitals and physicians, which meet the requirements of "meaningful use of certified EHR technology." To be eligible for the incentive payments, hospitals and physicians must use the technology in a meaningful manner; to exchange electronic health information to improve the quality of care; and, submit clinical quality measures--and other measures--as selected by the Secretary of HHS. Further, hospitals and physicians must meet the definition within a specified time frame, which as described in ARRA, will be made increasingly stringent over time by the HHS Secretary.

Of note, ARRA requires the hospital-focused definition to be effective by Oct. 1, 2010. For meaningful users (physicians), the definition must be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

Approved by the HIMSS board of directors, the definitions resulted from consensus-building effort with input from HIMSS members (73 percent of which work in end-user settings), and the public at-large.

HIMSS said that the Act has tremendous potential to improve the quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of patient care: