Panel proposes reducing meaningful use measures

By Bernie Monegain
09:56 AM

Members of a federal health IT advisory group last week proposed to relax the number of measures that would be required for healthcare providers to demonstrate "meaningful use" of electronic health record systems.

The Health and Human Service Department's meaningful use workgroup crafted an approach members said strike a "middle ground" between too few and too onerous a set of measures of meaningful use necessary to qualify providers for financial incentives under HHS's health IT adoption plan.

The workgroup, which reports to HHS's Health IT Policy Committee, proposed that physicians and hospitals could drop up to six meaningful use measures for 2011.

That would still require providers to meet about 80 percent of the measures of meaningful use originally proposed, said George Hripcsak, MD, the co-chair of the workgroup and a biomedical informatics professor at Columbia University.

Altogether healthcare providers must perform 25 different measures of meaningful use objectives such as e-prescribing and computerized physician order entry, based on proposed rules issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid published last month.

'Bar set too high'

But some healthcare providers say the number of measures for 2011 is too burdensome and that "the bar is set too high," according to work group members at a meeting Feb. 12.

Some categories of meaningful use have multiple measures required of providers; others have just one.

Hripcsak suggested allowing providers to drop some measures for patient engagement, care coordination, and public heath, which have several requirements.

None would be dropped in the area of privacy and security. "You can do things that are easy to measure, and you want to make sure it's done for some but not measures that force more manual labor," Hripcsak said.

The work group plans to deliver its recommendation at the next policy committee meeting Feb. 17, said Paul Tang, MD, the work group's other co-chairman and vice-chairman of the policy committee. He is also chief medical information officer of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Other workgroups will also propose changes to the meaningful use rule. Based on suggestions from the work groups, the Policy Committee will forward its recommendations for meaningful use revisions to the Health and Human Services Department by March 1, Tang said.

For instance, the adoption and certification workgroup proposed in its recent meeting that providers need specific standards instead of a choice of standards, and more guidance for how to establish and apply them, according to Paul Egerman, a retired businessman and the work group co-chairman.

The Interim Final Rule directs the technical standards and features that EHRs must incorporate to be certified to meet meaningful use.

"We want specificity in standards, and if there's more than one, we'd like to know why," Egerman said.