What is Meaningful Use and Its Stages?

Meaningful Use program was introduced by U.S. government in 2009 as a part of Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Its provisions were intended to encourage health care providers for presenting Meaningful Use of a licensed Electronic Health Record (EHR). Meaningful Use may be defined by the adoption of EHR technology in a meaningful and effective manner.
Why need the Meaningful Use?

The critical national goal line of this program is to promote the extensive use of electronic health records system which eventually leads to a better infrastructure with improved patient care quality, safety, and practice’s efficiency in America. As well as improved care coordination, improved population and public health and ensured privacy of public health are also the concerns of this program.
Who are Eligible Providers? :

Under this program, the care providers who successfully adopt the technology in required manner (meaningfully)are granted incentive payments by Centers of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). For this, they have to show the adoption and implementation of a certified EHR with the necessary upgrades. Such providers would be termed as Eligible Professionals (EPs) and Eligible Hospitals (EHs).When talking about all of them, the term Eligible Providers is used.

VIDEO: The Basics of Meaningful Use: How and Why By Dr. Holly Miller

Stages of Meaningful Use:

Sudden implementation of electronic records may burden the eligible providers. So, to avoid the risk of excessive load on them, meaningful use was executed in three different stages i.e. meaningful use stage 1: data capture and sharing, meaningful use stage 2: advanced clinical processes, and final stage meaningful use stage 3: improved outcomes. Each stage attempts to expand the usage of electronic health records and builds the infrastructure on the previous stage over several years. The requirements of each stage are as follows:

stages of meaningful use

The goals and requirements of the MU stages are as follows:

1. First Stage(Data Capture and Sharing): It began in 2011, emphasizing appropriate record capture and sharing of that through the technology of electronic health records. It has 13 core objective and five more from a menu set of 10 objectives. Each eligible provider can attest to the objectives and receive its incentives after meeting these all.

2. Second Stage (Advanced Clinical Processes): Stage 2 was launched in 2014. It modified the existing measures and introduced new objectives. Similar to stage 1, this stage also had its objectives categorized as core ones and optional ones. The eligible Providers are required to achieve seventeen core objectives and three out of a menu set of six objectives. The reason for increased number of core objectives in this stage is that some of the optional objectives from stage one are merged with the core objectives of stage two.

3. Stage 3 (Improved Outcomes): Based on the existing timeline a provider would jump to next stage after two years of the previous stage. Therefore, Stage three is said to be initiating no earlier than 2016. Although the details are not finalized yet, however, this stage will also attempt to develop the extensive core and optional objectives for eligible providers can use EHR systems more meaningfully.
Incentives and Penalties:

Medicare Providers receive $44,000 as an incentive payment over the five years (starting from 2011). These payments are equal to 75% of maximum annual Medicare fee. Beginning from 2015, if the eligible providers fail to meaningfully demonstrate the implementation of EHR, there will be negative adjustments to their fees. The penalties will start from 1% and keep increasing each coming year.

Additionally, an EP who sees Medicaid patients can earn up to $63,750 as incentive payments over the six years. Under the Medicaid program, there are no negative adjustments for an eligible provider unless the provider is also eligible under the Medicare program.

Although this entire program comes up with several measures and requirements but it supports the efforts of sharing accurate data among health care providers and ensuring a higher care quality for American patients. Meaningful Use fosters a more efficient and safer way to practice medicine.