Certified EHR and Meaningful Use

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After I wrote about the pros and cons of EHR-C, EHR-M and EHR-S certification I couldn’t help but ask why we even need EHR certification and meaningful use.

First, it’s important to remember that the new EHR-C, EHR-M, and EHR-S certification are still just in the CCHIT EHR certification proposal stage. CCHIT could certainly change any of these pathways. However, even more important is that ONC and HHS could choose to use all, some or none (that’s unlikely) of these EHR certification pathways.

What’s really interesting is the choice that ONC and HHS have to make in regards to these certification pathways. If they select EHR-C and EHR-M certification pathways, then they’re basically saying that they only care that certain features are available in the EMR software. However, these two EHR certifications don’t mean that the doctor’s office is actually using the features that were certified. It’s just the nature of software that users only use a certain percentage of the features in the software. Certainly many users of EHR-C software won’t end up using some of the certified features.

Many would then argue that this is why we have “certified EHR” and “meaningful use.” Certified EHR ensures that the EHR has the features and meaningful use shows that the features are indeed being used.

Now comes the EHR-S certification. Essentially this is where CCHIT certifies that a site or organization’s software is being used in a way that would qualify them for the ARRA EHR stimulus money. Read that over again. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what meaningful use is trying to accomplish? Essentially making sure that doctors are meaningfully using an EHR software.

There is one element that might be missed by the EHR-S certification as far as meaningful use. That’s the government getting the data from the EHR system in order for them to better administer Medicare and Medicaid. Although, that’s a topic for yet another post.