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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?

Meaningful Use is the way in which EHR technologies must be implemented and utilized for a provider to be eligible for the EHR Incentive Programs and to qualify for incentive payments.  ARRA specifies three components of Meaningful Use:  

  • The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner
  • The use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care
  • The use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures

The EHR Incentive Program Final Rule that specifies the requirements for Meaningful Use of EHRs was published on July 28, 2010.  This rule defines what a provider must do to receive incentive payments during the first two years of the program.  These first two years are called Stage 1 (2011 and 2012 for those who begin their participation in the program during the first year, 2011).  

Eligible Medicaid providers are allowed to adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate Meaningful Use of their EHR system during their first year of program participation.  You may use any of these options to qualify for incentive payments.  

  • Adopted:  Acquired and installed certified EHR technology. (For example, evidence of installation can be shown.)
  • Implemented:  Began using certified EHR technology. (For example, staff has been trained or patient demographic information was entered into the EHR.)
  • Upgraded:  Expanded existing technology to meet certification requirements. (For example, EHR technology has been upgraded or a new functionality was added to meet the definition of certified EHR technology.)

Medicaid providers who collect Meaningful Use payments their first year of participation without demonstrating Meaningful Use are required to demonstrate Meaningful Use during the following years of participation.  

Meaningful Use Stage 1 criteria focus on electronically capturing health information in a coded format, using that information to track key clinical conditions, communicating that information for care coordination purposes, and initiating the reporting of clinical quality measures and public health information.  

Eligible professionals and eligible hospitals must adopt and use a certified EHR to qualify for incentive payments.  The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has designated organizations that will test and certify EHRs.  These organizations are called Testing and Certification Bodies (ACTB).  ONC-ACTBs have certified a number of EHRs and the Certified Health IT Product List is posted on ONC’s website.

In addition to adopting and using a certified EHR, Meaningful Use of EHRs is demonstrated by fulfilling specified objectives and clinical quality measures.  The other modules of this Toolkit outline these objectives and measures, as well as provide information and resources to help providers use their EHR technologies in a meaningful way and comply with the Program’s requirements.   

Related Resources:

EHR Incentive Program: Meaningful Use – CMS’ overview of Meaningful Use and how Meaningful Use will be determined.
Meaningful Use: Overview – ONC’s information on of Meaningful Use and rule development.
Quality Measures – CMS’ overview of quality measure for the EHR Incentive Program and other CMS initiatives.  
Certified Health IT Product List  –  Comprehensive listing of EHR technologies that have been tested and certified under the Temporary Certification Program maintained by ONC.   
The Real Meaning of Meaningful Use (PPT - 2.47MB) go to exit disclaimer– Presentation by Yael Harris, Director of HRSA’s Office of Health IT & Quality, at the 2010 Health Information Technology Workshop conducted by the Institute for Family Health.
Achieving "Meaningful Use" Means More than Technology (PDF - 174KB) go to exit disclaimer– Article on NACHC website discussing the long-term ramifications of community health centers’ adoption of EHR systems.
Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records go to exit disclaimer– Video presentation by the Institute for Family Health offers an overview of how a health center should prepare to demonstrate Meaningful Use of an EHR system.              

Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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