There is a lot to know and understand about Meaningful Use if practices and patients want to experience its complete benefits. Practices must realize Meaningful Use is more than a regulatory requirement and begin to think in terms of the benefits it will provide. The underlying driver for Meaningful Use is not really technology—it’s patient engagement.
The only way to genuinely improve outcomes is to educate patients about their medical conditions and provide options for enhancing their health. Through structured electronic data, patients can access both their health histories and their decisions for medical care. They can gain a comprehensive view of their health by researching their conditions, their treatment options, costs, and recommended lifestyle changes. Meaningful Use provides the structure needed to capture of all of this information.
About halfway through this decade the healthcare industry reached a threshold. Most practices that were interested and able to implement electronic health records (EHRs) on their own had done so. As a result, Meaningful Use legislation was created to provide incentives for other practices to do the same. Now, the industry can move toward achieving the patient care benefits promised by the technology.
Make no mistake: We’re just starting to get to where we want to be in terms of capturing data electronically. Right now we’re laying down an information foundation. Once that’s secured, we must make sure we derive benefit from that information.
There’s no getting around the fact that Meaningful Use does mandate technology change, but we have to look beyond the regulatory criteria. The very first thing practices need to know about Meaningful Use is that it’s not really about technology implementation or even provider care plans—it’s about giving patients the information they need to live healthier lives.