Meaningful Use: Defined by HIT Policy Committee

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media , June 16, 2009

Overhage predicts there will be a large number of organizations in jeopardy of being penalized under the guidelines.

What will the impact be if a large number of organizations rush to purchase HIT in the hopes of securing stimulus dollars without putting in enough planning time?
Organizations could be wasting their money in the long run, if they buy IT just because there is stimulus money, but they are not ready or purchase a system that isn't what the caregivers need, says Vogel. "That's the challenge—and the risk—of the stimulus funding," he says. "Some number of these purchases will not be successful because the organizational context within which the system will be implemented will not be ready to make the changes necessary to be successful."

"Our biggest risk, is will we effectively use these dollars to deliver better care for patients," says Overhage. "If I can send and receive healthcare data, but no one else is out there to do it—the patients won't get any benefit." There is a critical mass that needs to be achieved for widespread adoption to occur, Overhage says. And while he's not sure what that figure is exactly, it is probably in the neighborhood of 60% to 70% of healthcare data that needs to be exchanged, he says.

Will there be a better approach to achieving meaningful use—enterprise path or best of breed?
Crockett is not convinced it will make a difference over the long haul. "Everyone wants to see an integrated system where all documents are visible and useful to everyone in the hospital," he says. Historically, that has only been achieved with enterprise systems, but organizations often have to sacrifice some level usability and effectiveness for clinicians with those systems. One system can't do everything well, says Vogel. For some organizations having a single system is worth avoiding the hassles associated with a best-of-breed approach. Then again, for other organizations like academic medical centers where state-of-the-art capabilities are expected in every area, the only way to accomplish that is through best of breed, says Vogel. "Just like in cars, a high performance racing vehicle is not the best vehicle for commuting to work every day, and the best car for your daily commute would run far back in the pack on the race track."

Crockett believes the solution is in interoperability standards. "If I needed to achieve meaningful use in one year, I have no choice but use one vendor," he says. "But if I can do this over time as standards are put in place, then I can buy a system from anyone and have it work."

The HIT Policy Committee will offer some additional direction with its recommendation to ONCHIT, but the industry will still be in a holding pattern until it receives the official definition. Then, it will be a race for "meaningful use" status and cold hard cash. Will most organizations take the time for planning to ensure they get the value out of the IT being implemented—improved outcomes and cost savings—even if that means forgoing some stimulus money? Or will they speed up the decision-making and planning process in order to go for the cash and hope to sort it out on the backend? I must admit, I think there will be some definite redo's from organizations that didn't quite find a system that fits their clinicians' needs.

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Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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