Meaningful Use is a set of standards that is established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as part of the incentive programs for hospital and other healthcare providers that adopt and employ EHR technology in a way that is meaningful and consistent with the aim of the standards. Reimbursements to eligible hospitals and healthcare professionals meeting the criteria specified under meaningful use are authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment ACT (ARRA)

Meaningful Use Goal

The aim of adopting Meaningful Use is to promote Electronic Health Record adoption to improve the quality of healthcare. Usage of technology pertinent to EHR and its proper implementation is expected to improve the patient outcomes and safety through best practices support. Meaningful Use compliant EHR systems are intended to deliver accurate and complete patient information to healthcare providers that enable them to provide the best possible level of care.

Better and easier access to healthcare information enable healthcare providers to diagnose health issues earlier enabling more positive patient outcomes. Putting all health information in the electronic form permits the information to be shared between healthcare providers more easily permitting improved care coordination. Electronic health records also enable patient empowerment as they have better access to their health records and can share them with care givers across locations securely without the fear of loss of confidentiality. MU stage 1 and 2 certification ensures that hospital and eligible professionals have achieved the desired standards of HER adoption.

Three-stage incentive program

The Meaningful Use program has three distinct stages; Stage 1 lays the basis for driving the change in culture and process. It lays down the functions that must be addressed by electronic health record system, including electronic data capture and health information to patients in electronic form. Stage 2 deals with interoperability that increases information exchange between healthcare providers and gives patients access to their personal health information records on a secure online platform. Stage 2 also defines clinical outcomes that deal with the collectability, report-ability and share-ability of quality measures. Stage 3 is a continuation of the expansion of the objective of improvement of overall healthcare outcomes through Meaningful Use.

Summary of Meaningful Use Criteria

Hospital and eligible professionals need to demonstrate successfully their adoption of meaningful use of EHR to qualify for payment of incentives specified by the CMS-administered Medicare EHR Incentive Program. Attestation of meaningful use need not be done for the first year but participants must adopt, implement or shift to EHR to be eligible for receiving their State’s incentive payments. Hospital and eligible professionalsneed to adopt EHR technology that is certified and use it to accomplish specific objectives. To facilitate the meaningful use criteria, EPs and hospitals must implementspecialized EHR technology and use it to attain specific objectives. The evolution of the criteria, measures, and objectives of meaningful use is planned in three stages over five years. More information about Meaningful Use criteria and standards can be obtained at

Stage 1 (2011-12)

In this stage the criteria of meaningful use focus on capturing health information electronically in a format that is standardized, and using the capture health information to monitor key medical conditions. The stage also lays down criteria for communicating the information so that it can be used for coordinating care processes. The stage also initiates reporting of quality standards of clinical care and information pertaining to public health as well as engagement of patientsand patient families.

Stage 2 (2014)

Stage 2 requires more rigorous implementation of exchange of health information and increases the requirements for prescribing in electronic form and lab result incorporation. The stage also prescribes compliance standards for electronic transmission of summaries of patient care records across several settings. The stage also enables patients to control more of their data interchange.

Stage 3 (2016)

This stage has criteria that focus on the improvement of safety, quality, and efficiency in patient care for improvement of patient health outcomes. There is also a provision for decision support for conditions that are high priority in the national context. The patient is allowed access to tools that enable him to mange his health records and give him access to entire patient data.