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What is Meaningful Use?

Defining and Understanding Meaningful Use in Healthcare

If you are going to work with electronic health records (EHR's) in the field of healthcare, you will likely have to understand how to define meaningful use in healthcare. Even though the original guidelines have been debated, contested, and disregarded by physicians, they point to the direction the industry is moving.

It is still important to understand the background of meaningful use. Basically, this term describes the standards set forth by the United States government for handling patient information, including EHRs. These minimum requirements are applied to all data transmitted between all healthcare environments, insurance companies, and their correspondence with patients.

You may be wondering what meaningful use mean for hospitals – or other types of healthcare facilities. It is to your facility's advantage to apply meaningful use to your organization, especially since this is tied to federal funding for a variety of widely used programs, including Medicare. There are also Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs that you can participate in through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website.

Meaningful use is broken into 3 stages:

  • Stage one has 25 pieces of criteria. This includes 15 core requirements. Additionally, there are 10 additional options. A main objective of this first stage is making sure your facility is equipped with the right EHR technology, and you are able handle patient data in all phases of your clinical and administrative procedures.
  • Stage two core objectives are in areas such as prescribing, demographics, test results, secure electronic messaging, and others. Menu objectives include imaging results, electronic notes, and other options. A primary objective of stage 2 is to foster more communication with patients by giving them a way to view their health information, securely, online.
  • Stage 3 concerns several objectives, including computerized provider order entry, electronic prescribing, security analysis related to using new tech, increased patient engagement, and other measurables for delivering effective care while handling EHR's correctly.

The meaningful use program has not been without controversy and disagreement, but communication among the medical community led to an overhaul in the system. Earlier this year, it was reported that meaningful use will be revamped to move from rewarding use of technology to rewarding better patient outcomes.

This may make it hard to define meaningful use, since the science is always looking to improve, which is actually a good thing for the field of medicine!

Instead of having to adhere to strict IT guidelines, organizations will have more flexibility to build the tech infrastructure that makes sense in their organization. If you want to know more about the meaningful use regulations you can visit HealthIT.gov.

When it comes to healthcare careers, as a Meaningful Use Specialist, you can work in this area within a quality assurance or HIT role. You would help create the workflow of your organization, and meet with executive level professionals to discuss organizational improvements and help design implementation, deployment and training.

Other jobs in this area might be called Implementation Support Specialist, HER Implementation Specialist, and Clinical Informatics manager. In these roles, you will need to at least be proficient in the latest Microsoft Office products, and EMR and Practice Management software. You will also need to have strong communication skills, since you will be interacting with many departments in your organization – since everyone has standard operating procedures to follow.

Does a career path in quality assurance and meaningful use sound interesting to you?

Contact schools in your area that offer healthcare programs to start mapping out your education.