On June 16th the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced a 10-day period for comments on their preliminary definition of "Meaningful Use". This definition is important to clinicians and hospitals who could qualify for incentive funds if they are "meaningful users" of health information technology (HIT). The federal stimulus program, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), includes $20 billion for these incentive funds. ONC has posted on their website a preliminary definition in the form of a Meaningful Use Matrix document. Comments on this preliminary definition can be sent to ONC through their website until June 26th at 5:00pm. The rules for incentive payment qualification that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will announce later this year will be guided by the recommendations made by ONC.
Participating with two organizations who are preparing to submit comments to ONC has clarified for me that the most important aspect of this matrix is the "Measures" column. The "Measures" column lists the detail for what physicians and hospitals will be expected to do in order to be qualified for incentive payments as meaningful users. Assessments and comments should therefore focus on the "Measures" in the matrix. It appears that the Objectives column includes things that are expected to occur as providers achieve the measures, but are not specifically required for reimbursement. This should, however, be further clarified by ONC.
If you are interested in submitting comments to ONC or you are just interested in seeing more details, please click here to see a list of my comments on the preliminary definition of "meaningful use". One thought that struck me as I worked on this is that the incentive payment program will create new opportunities for vendors to provide "services" to physicians by streamlining the effort that will be required to receive incentive payments over the next 6 years.