Meaningful Use Guidelines

In 2009, when the U.S. was in the midst of the greatest recession since the great depression, the 111th U.S. Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  Nestled in this act were two words that would change the U.S. healthcare system forever: ”meaningful use“.

These two words have started a data driven revolution in our healthcare system, where electronic records are slowly but surely replacing paper in physician’s office nationwide.  It has also helped funnel millions of dollars of venture capital into innovative software companies such as Practice FusionPredixion Software, and Explorys.  I am going to focus my attention on what meaningful use is, what impact it has had on the Healthcare IT landscape so far, what impact is it expected to have in the future, and how can you profit from it?

Meaningful use is an incentive payment program offered to physicians to promote adoption of certified Electronic Health Record (E.H.R) software.  If the physician adopts a certified E.H.R., he’s eligible for the following monetary incentives:

Year Payment
2011 $15,000
2012 $12,000
2013 $8,000
2014 $4,000
2015 $2,000

There will be no incentive payments beyond 2015 and physicians who do not adopt certified E.H.R will receive reduced payments from Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

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The U.S. Federal government expects that increased adoption of certified E.H.R., will lead to improved quality of care and safety of the nation’s healthcare system.

What is a certified E.H.R.?

A certified E.H.R. is a system that complies with set of guidelines.  Currently, these guidelines are split into three stages; stage 1 began in 2011, stage 2 began in 2014, and stage 3 is expected to start in 2017. The Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) releases the guidelines and the measurement rules for meaningful use.

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Meaningful Guidelines and Measurements

Here are a couple of examples of a requirement that the E.H.R software and the physician have to meet for stage one:

Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE)


Use computerized physician order entry (CPOE) for medication orders directly entered by any licensed healthcare professional who can enter orders into the medical record per state, local and professional guidelines.


More than 30 percent of all unique patients with at least one medication in their medication list seen by the eligible professional have at least one medication order entered using CPOE.

Medication Allergy List


Maintain active medication allergy list.


More than 80 percent of all unique patients seen by the eligible professional have at least one entry (or an indication that the patient has no known medication allergies) recorded as structured data.

What’s Next?

As we progress through various stages of meaningful use in the coming years, there are numerous opportunities for software solutions.  For example, companies are investing in big data analytics solutions knowing that the physicians would adopt many of the solutions given the “incentives” of meaningful use.  In future blog posts, I will explore the various solutions, use cases, and technologies in various solutions that are deployed in various healthcare organizations.

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