When I first reviewed the Matrix and other documents released by the HIT Policy Committee’s “Meaningful Use” Workgroup, my initial reaction was “When did defining ‘Meaningful Use’ of EHR morph into attempting to use EHRs to ‘meaningfully’ reform the entire healthcare delivery system.”?  More simply put, the Workgroup’s initial recommendations seemed to me to be over-ambitious.

The term "Meaningful EHR User" in ARRA (at Title IV, subtitle A, section 4104) is described as "an eligible professional" who meets the following criteria: 

  1. demonstrates that he/she is using certified EHR technology in a "meaningful manner, which shall include the use of electronic prescribing";
  2. demonstrates that he/she uses the certified EHR technology to be "connected, in a manner that provides… for the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of health care, such as promoting care coordination"; and
  3. submits information on selected "clinical quality measures".   

In my view, the first round of "Meaningful Use" requirements should be specific and reasonably achievable by healthcare providers. For example, perhaps the terms could require that the healthcare provider demonstrate how he/she uses electronic prescribing at least 75% of the time; or, how a provider records patient notes and medical encounter information in a certified EHR for no less than 75% of his/her new patient encounters.   


Interestingly, the National Coordinator for HIT decided to “send the workgroup back to work on another set [of recommendations]" for defining Meaningful Use soon after the Workgroup released its first set of recommendations. In the second go around, I think that many in the healthcare industry hope to see Meaningful Use criteria that are attainable by healthcare providers on a practical level. Otherwise, the entire premise of the HITECH Act providing incentives to increase EHR adoption could be thwarted.