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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality

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What is “Meaningful Use”?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 specifies three main components of Meaningful Use :

  1. The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner.
  2. The electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care.
  3. The use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measure.

Simply put, "meaningful use" means providers need to show they're using certified EHR technology in ways that can be measured significantly in quality and in quantity.

Meaningful Use's Principles

In July 2010, the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule  which established three phases of the EHR Incentive Program. The three stages of Meaningful Use are designed to support eligible professionals and hospitals with implementing and using EHRs in a meaningful way to help improve the quality and safety of the nation’s healthcare system. Stage 1 of the EHR Incentive program began in 2011, with Stages II and III to be established by future CMS rules.

After 2015, Medicare will require that all Medicare eligible professionals and hospitals meet meaningful use or they may be subject to a financial penalty. Medicaid eligible professionals participating in the EHR Incentive Program can elect to adopt, implement, or upgrade to an electronic health care system in the first year and still receive the incentive payments. In order to continue to receive payments, all eligible providers must meet the criteria for meaningful use. Key Principles of Meaningful Use>>

By focusing on the effective use of certified EHRs, the HITECH Act makes clear that the adoption of EHRs is not a goal in itself – it is the effective use of EHRs to achieve health and efficiency that matters. HITECH’s incentives and assistance programs seek to improve the health of Americans and the performance of their health care system through the “meaningful use” of EHRs with a focus on five health enhancing goals:

  • Improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of care while reducing disparities;
  • Engage patients and families in their care;
  • Promote public and population health;
  • Improve care coordination;
  • Promote the privacy and security of patient information.

Please see CMS's EHR Incentive Program website for more information.