Meaningful use: the final rule

Federal officials have announced they will release the long-awaited final rule on meaningful use Tuesday morning.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator will host a Washington, D.C. media briefing to announce the final rules on meaningful use and standards and certification under the HITECH Act’s electronic health records incentive program at 10 a.m.

Speakers at the briefing will include HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, MD; National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal, MD; and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD.

 Vendors and providers alike have been eager to see what the rule contains – vendors so they can make sure their electronic health records are meaningful-use worthy, and providers so they can begin collecting data by October to qualify for the incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Beginning in 2011, office-based physicians whose patient mix includes at least 30 percent Medicaid beneficiaries are eligible for up to $63,750 over six years, while Medicare physicians can earn a maximum closer to $44,000. Hospitals stand to gain $2 million a year in incentives.

The proposed rule, released late in December 2009, called for providers to comply with 25 measures and hospitals to comply with 23 measures to qualify for incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services received thousands of comments through March 15 on the proposed rule, officials said.

At the American Hospital Association annual conference held this spring in Washington, D.C., Rick Pollack, executive vice president for AHA said the proposed version was asking provideer for "too much, too soon."

David Blumenthal, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said he was sympathetic with their point of view, though in a June 16 blog, Blumenthal wrote: "The question healthcare providers are facing today is whether we are pushing too hard, too fast to make this important change. I respectfully submit, no."

Jodi Daniel, the ONC's director of the Office of Policy and Research has said the government is prohibited from adding anything new to the proposed rule, it can only alter items that are already proposed.

Federal and industry leaders have all indicated the meaningful use rules will see many iterations over the coming years.

We'll have full coverage on the rule on this page and in our Twitter feed throughout the day.