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What Is “Meaningful Use?
Electronic health records (EHRs) can work wonders — but not by themselves. Buying an exercise machine won’t burn off fat by itself. Likewise, the benefits of putting an EHR in a doctor’s office or hospital depend on how it’s used.
To encourage “meaningful use” of EHRs, the federal government will give bonus payments to doctors and hospitals that use EHRs in a meaningful way to improve the quality of care, reduce medical errors, and improve efficiency.
To qualify for these incentives, doctors and hospitals are taking certain steps to make sure that their use of EHRs will benefit you. These include actions that will:
- Give you quicker access to your health information
- Help to protect your medical privacy
- Give you a summary of each visit
- Help to prevent drug errors
- Make your health information available to share with other doctors, according to your preferences, in order to coordinate your care
VITL has received a multi-year federal grant to work with Vermont primary care providers on putting EHRs into their offices and using them in a meaningful way to improve the health care of their patients. VITL has been designated by the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology as a regional extension center for health information technology. VITL is the only such center serving Vermont. What that means is that every work day, a team of experts from VITL hits the state's roads to visit health care providers in their offices and give them advice and assistance with the task of installing an EHR and using it in a meaningful way. VITL has signed up almost all of the state's primary care providers to work toward installing an EHR and achieving "meaningful use."
Already, several Vermont hospitals and physician practices have demonstrated that they are using EHRs in a meaningful way and have qualified for federal bonus payments. Below is a WPTZ-TV story about one of the first physician practices to do so. Over the next few years, VITL expects most Vermont hospitals and physician practices will achieve meaningful use.