Meaningful use will likely include health registries, federal leader says

By Diana Manos
10:49 AM
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Physician practices and health systems eyeing bonuses under the stimulus package should begin now by setting up health registries with their health IT vendor, according to Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

At Tuesday's opening of a two-day federal meeting on "meaningful use," Clancy said providers should collect information on two to 20 chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease to focus on improving outcomes. Though the government has yet to define "meaningful use" under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, providers can prepare by gathering data to show they have improved the outcomes of their patients.

"We crash more often than we need to in healthcare," Clancy said at the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics executive subcommittee hearing on "meaningful use" of health information technology. "We haven't reached a system-based approach where the right thing to do is the easy thing to do."

Clancy said improving quality will take more than health IT. "If we merely automate what we are doing now, we won't get what we want," she said. Improving healthcare today, she said, will include connecting all the primary care doctors in small practices with a larger learning network for sharing best practices.

"Meaningful use is a destination and a journey," she added.

The economic stimulus package has allotted $17.2 billion to reward Medicare and Medicaid providers who can prove they are using certified healthcare IT "in a meaningful way."

The incentives are scheduled to take effect starting Oct. 1, 2011. Experts say providers should not waste time getting prepared because there is a shortage of change management experts available to help.

The law calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to define "meaningful use."

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is facing Senate confirmation Tuesday as the Obama Administration's nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary. At least 60 votes are required for confirmation, and sentors are expected to take most of the day debating her qualifications.