'Meaningful use' rules draw mixed response

July 29, 2010

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' July 13 announcement of the final rules for the "meaningful use" of electronic health records (EHRs) has elicited mixed responses from medical societies representing primary care physicians.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' July 13 announcement of the final rules for the "meaningful use" of electronic health records (EHRs) has elicited mixed responses from medical societies representing primary care physicians.

"The [American Medical Association (AMA)] and 95 state and specialty medical societies submitted formal comments to [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] on an earlier draft of this rule and cautioned that the proposed criteria for meaningful use [were] too aggressive and would prevent many physicians from participating," said AMA board member Steven J. Stack, MD. Some physicians cannot afford EHR systems because of the current Medicare reimbursement situation, he added.

The organization plans to hold a free Web seminar about the requirements for members in the coming weeks.The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) already has scheduled a Web seminar for August 19, from 1 to 2:30 ET. Cost is $10 for members and $50 for non-members. Speakers will review the meaningful use definition and will aim to help physicians determine how and when to participate.

Steven Waldren, MD, director of the AAFP's Center for Health Information Technology, told the organization's AAFP News Now that "CMS has addressed the [AAFP's] biggest concerns, and many of the changes they have made will benefit family physicians." For instance, he said, CMS now will offer partial incentives to increase physician participation, will give doctors more leeway in meeting and reporting particular objectives in demonstrating meaningful use, and will apply the 80 percent threshold for electronic transmittals only to medication orders. Other types of electronically transmitted orders will have lower thresholds.

The American College of Physicians' (ACP) executive vice president and chief executive officer, John Tooker, MD, sent a letter to CMS administrators and the Office of the National Coordinator indicating that the organization is pleased overall with the rules but that the ACP continues to have some concerns. Namely, Tooker wrote, the ACP hopes that EHR system certification will begin soon, that physicians will be properly supported in all of the health information technology services they will use, and that the standards and versions of adopted EHR technology will be able to facilitate accurate data exchange and interoperability.

The ACP and Cientis Technologies have founded AmericanEHR Partners to launch a new online community in an effort to help medical practices learn about meaningful use and compare EHR systems. Seven medical groups in addition to the ACP, including the American Osteopathic Association of Medical Informatics and the Society of General Internal Medicine, have joined the effort.

AmericanEHR Partners will host a free meaningful use Web seminar including David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology, on August 4 at 7 p.m. ET.

The American Osteopathic Association is promoting HealthFusion's MediTouch EHR system to its members through a partnership with the company.