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28-08-2012 | Article

HHS announces EHR rules, timeline


Full text of rules

medwireNews: The US government is giving healthcare providers incentives to comply with new electronic health record (EHR) standards.

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced new rules that she says "will lead to more coordination of patient care, reduced medical errors, elimination of duplicate screenings and tests and greater patient engagement in their own care," according to a statement.

Clinicians and hospitals that adopt and "meaningfully use" certified EHR technology can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments, according to provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

More than half of all eligible hospitals and 20% of eligible healthcare professionals have qualified to receive incentive payments since the program began in January 2011, the HHS says.

The department has established a three-step program designed to facilitate the transition of medical records from paper to pixels.

The first stage establishes a minimum set of standards for EHR, governing such functions as electronic data capture and provision of electronic copies of health information to patients.

Beginning in 2014, stage 2 will give patients secure online access to their health information and increase electronic health information exchange between providers.

Stage 3 "will continue to expand meaningful use objectives to improve health care outcomes," HHS says.

The final requirements for stage 2, just released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, outline what providers must do to ensure they qualify for incentives, and describe the criteria that EHR systems must meet to be certified.

Stage 2 will begin in 2014; no providers will have to follow the stage 2 requirements until then. Providers will be given flexibility to adopt new compliant systems or upgrade existing systems to meet the new requirements and qualify for incentive payments.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter