Before the industry could start raking in that “free money,” they only needed one clarification. To receive one of Congress’ incentive payments, providers had to show that they are “meaningfully using” their EHRs. Since Congress added that two-word phrase to the 1000-page stimulus legislation, they must have a quick definition right? They should get back to us by the end of the day, and we can get to selling! Okay, maybe by the end of the week? Err… end of the month?
Fifteen months later, a sub-suboffice in the Department of Health and Human Services dropped a stack of dead trees on the industry. The simple two-word phrase had ballooned into a 650-page “interim final rule” which defined “meaningful use” through a series of new regulations, certifications, quality checks and best practices that your local family doctor had to follow if he wanted his slice of government cheese.
Since that interim rule contained several contradictory demands, meaningless requirements and flat-out errors, the HHS later released a “final rule” weighing in at 850 pages. But that was only “Stage 1” of meaningful use; Stages 2 and 3 were promised in the years ahead.
Oh, and in the meantime, Congress passed Obamacare, which added 2,700 pages of new rules never mentioned by HHS’s CMS/ONC 850-page EHR Meaningful Use Final Rule (Stage 1). Have a headache yet? Don’t worry; I had one for a year and a half straight. Overnight, my job changed from helping customers to dissecting turgid bureaucratese and offering my own Talmudic interpretations.
As much of the post as I highlighted here, you should still go read the whole thing. It really shows the very serious reason why many people run and hide when they hear the words, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”