What does Meaningful Use of EMR Mean?

Posted: June 24, 2010 in Industry Commentary

First, we want to congratulate Information Week’s Marianne Kolbasuk McGee on what Haus thinks is the finest coverage of the EMR technology issue of the major IT weeklies. Job well done! For those of our readers who aren’t familiar with the meaningful use stipulation, here is a rundown culled from McGee’s reporting.

The healthcare industry is scurrying to implement electronic health record (EHR) systems with the hopes of taking advantage of the government’s $20 billion-plus meaningful use incentive program.  But what remains questionable is – what exactly is “meaningful use”?  Although this hasn’t been finalized by the government, the proposed definition includes movement towards using certified EHR technology to improve healthcare quality, efficiency and patient safety.  However, the ambiguity of the working definition has delayed the industry to move forward with implementation.  More details on the proposed definition can be found on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) website.

Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, explains the privacy and security issues commonly associated with digitizing health records in a recent June 15 interview with McGee.  He explains that the HITECH act enacted a whole series of provisions to tighten the privacy and security laws under HIPAA, and the Office of Civil Rights has already issued an interim final rule on breach notification that requires the notification of patients or other individuals whose data is exposed.  Dr. Blumenthal also explains that healthcare IT departments are concerned about the technical challenge of putting EHRs into practice and possible lost of initial productivity.

If we could make one suggestion, it would be that McGee explore what meaningful use has to say about secure transfer of data from point-to-point, i.e., what’s the scoop on VPN here?  Will the requirement be simply that encryption is required? What about endpoint security, etc? Healthcare tech is increasingly going wireless and thus a hot topic.

[tweetmeme source=”vpnhaus” only_single=false]

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