Stage 2 of Meaningful Use under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH Act) requires providers who want the HITECH Act’s EHR incentive payments to ensure that at least some patients are engaged and are actually using their electronic health records (EHRs). The Final Rule for the Stage 2 criteria call for eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) to provide a means for patients to access their health care information online. EPs must also provide a means for patients to send secure messages electronically, however, patients have to actually use these services in order for providers to meet these new measures for making a Meaningful Use of certified EHRs.
The Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and its HIT Policy Committee worked hard throughout the summer to develop a framework for the “meaningful use” standards required to qualify for electronic health record (EHR) adoption stimulus funds available under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). When I saw the survey that HIMSS released today regarding the use of social networking tools to communicate with patients, it reminded me of the “meaningful use” standard that centers on “engaging patients and families.” The stated goal of this standard is to “Provide patients and families with timely access to data, knowledge, and tools to make informed decisions and to manage their health.” Although it’s doubtful today that social networking tools would be accepted as meeting this goal for purposes of the EHR stimulus funds, it did get me to thinking about the use of technology to literally communicate with patients and, in particular, the studies that have been done in regard to using technology, such as e-mail and texting, to communicate with patients.