Satisfying Meaningful Use Regulations

RECs Help Practices Meet Regulations

Understand Meaningful Use Regulations Policy Goals

When the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed last year, it provided for the establishment of Regional Extension Centers (RECs) in each state to help providers to meet meaningful use regulations.

RECs are not-for-profit health IT institutions or organizations tasked with providing technical advice and information to physician practices, hospitals, and health clinics to implement and effectively use an electronic health record (EHR) to meet meaningful use regulations. EHRs have been shown to improve continuity of patient care and patient safety. To date, 62 RECs serving various regions of the country have been designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Primary care providers in smaller practices and small and rural hospitals and health clinics are anticipated to benefit most from meeting regulations and the advice furnished by the REC in their specific region. However, these RECs will also serve as a resource for all providers in a region, giving assistance, as feasible, to any doctor, hospital or clinic making the request. Each REC organization has been assigned to help a target number of primary care physicians based on population needs. The RECs are to help the physicians stay within the regulations in the first two years of the program.

Each REC will be reviewed biannually and a two-year expansion supplemental award will be given to those who meet or exceed requirements. Under the regulations of the HITECH Act, $677 million is allocated for the next two years to support a nationwide system of RECs to help physicians.

David Blumenthal, M.D., HHS national coordinator for HIT, has called the conversion from paper to electronic records while meeting meaningful use regulations "a challenging task for any provider." With the guidance of these designated RECs, healthcare providers should find the process less overwhelming and more streamlined through the use best practice recommendations by the RECs.

Understanding Policy Goals and Definition For Medicare, Medicaid Federal Incentive Programs

Through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, CMS hopes to expand the use of certified EHR technology. Certified EHR technology used in a meaningful way is one piece of a broader health information technology infrastructure needed to reform the health care system and improve health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is simultaneously issuing a closely related final rule that completes the Secretary's adoption of an initial set of standards, implementation specifications, and regulations using certification criteria for EHRs. ONC also issued a final rule establishing a temporary certification program for health IT on June 24, 2010 and anticipates issuing a final rule establishing a permanent certification program later this year.

CMS' goal is for the definition of meaningful use to be consistent with applicable provisions of Medicare and Medicaid law while continually advancing the contributions certified EHR technology can make to improving health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety. To accomplish this, CMS' final rule would phase in more robust criteria for meeting regulations in three stages.

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