Marathon of Meaningful Use, EHR Standards Just Beginning

Dom Nicastro and Janice Simmons , December 31, 2009

Margret Amatayakul, MBA, RHIA, CHPS, CPHIT, CPEHR, CPHIE, FHIMSS, president of Margret\A Consulting, LLC, which specializes in EHR adoption, says she is impressed ONC followed recommendations of its advisory committees, "so there are no major surprises." At the same time, she says, it incorporated "staging that recognizes the immense work ahead."

"I am also pleased to see," Amatayakul adds, "that federal resources are being put to workforce training, research, best practices, extension centers, no- and low-cost loan programs, and other help, especially centering on workflow and process issues that, other than cost, are the biggest hurdles to gaining adoption by physicians and other clinicians."

Ruelas says the certification standards also included encryption of patient information flowing over networks, a best practice in protecting PHI.

"As a result, it is expected that this will increase the use of encryption which will promote patient privacy within HIPAA as well," Ruelas says.

When developing its standards and criteria, the government considered requirements that have been introduced already—such as ePrescribing, HIPAA security and privacy safeguarding of PHI, and the HIPAA transaction code sets.

Providers can become "meaningful users" of certified EHR technology through various methods, according to the standards described this week. It cited how a provider could either obtain a complete system or could put together a complete system composed of modules from different vendors, Ruelas says.

CMS' proposed rule defining meaningful use for the Medicare EHR incentive programs would apply to eligible professionals participating in the Medicare fee-for-service and the Medicare Advantage EHR incentive programs. CMS also provides a definition that would apply to eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals.

CMS will provide a 60-day comment period on the proposed rule after the rule is published in the Federal Register in January.

Dom Nicastro is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Marblehead, MA. He edits the Briefings on HIPAA and Health Information Compliance Insider newsletters. E-mail him at

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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