The improvement of the health condition of society has always been one of the priorities of the United States of America. Every individual has the right to health that is crucial for happy living. The government’s interest in the health condition of the society demonstrates the aim to make the country prosperous in all perspectives. The U.S. government has adopted various initiatives targeted at improving the health disparities in the society. The Meaningful Use program is a recent initiative that presupposes the sharing of significant information about health conditions of individuals with the help of information technologies. The purpose of the current paper is to evaluate the implications of the Meaningful Use program and provide recommendations for further development. The paper starts with the overview of the Meaningful Use. The next part is the Analysis of implications of the Meaningful Use for nurses, national health policy, and population health. Recommendations concerning additional criteria will be discussed in the next part of the paper. Finally, Conclusion includes the summarization of the analysis and recommendations to the Meaningful Use program.
Overview of Meaningful Use
The variety of factors has predetermined the establishment of Meaningful Use program. The investigation of the health care issues has always been crucial for the understanding and creating the overall picture of the health condition of society. Before the establishment of Meaningful Use, the Institute of Medicine came to the conclusion that almost one hundred thousand Americans died from illnesses that could be prevented annually. One of the most widespread reasons for deaths was the medical error. As Chin and Sakuda (2012) write, “Medical errors are killing more people per year in the United Stated than breast cancer, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents combined” (p. 50). Findings also showed that up to eighty percent of medical errors were caused by the lack of communication and understanding of the patients’ medical condition. These data demonstrated the urgent need to develop a better system of health care that would include accurate communication and suggestions for the management of clinical care.
It was the task of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to promote the improvement of the health care via the implementation of health information technology (HIT) and health information exchange (HIE) system. These activities were conducted under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health (HITECH) Act. The objective of this Act was to establish a tool that would transform the national health care system so that every patient could receive better help. Meaningful Use program became the instrument for the development of health care system via electronic sharing of information about patients, reducing time wasted on work with papers, and increasing patient outcomes and satisfaction.
According to Association of Public Health Laboratories (2011), the priorities of Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) include:
- Improve quality, efficacy, and safety, and reduce health disparities;
- Make patients involved in their health care;
- Advance coordination and management of health care;
- Ensure that all medical data are protected;
- Improve the health of the population.
Health care providers face particular challenges when it comes to implementation of EHRs in hospitals or public health institutions. The need for substantial financial resources is the primary problem. Also, the implementation of EHR leads to the necessity to train staff and re-design the usual workflow. Finally, health providers should employ individuals who will provide technical support for HIT.
The Meaningful Use is adopted in three Stages. The goal of Stage 1 is to convert all data into electronic form. Stage 2 presupposes the expansion of the received information. Stage 2 also emphasizes the management of medications and diseases, patients’ access to their health information, and clinical decision-making (Association of Public Health Laboratories, 2011). Stage 3 includes assessing and improving outcomes received from previous two stages. The adoption of Meaningful Use is supported by Medicare and Medicaid financial incentives programs. The implementation of the program commenced in 2012. Heath care providers were given three years to set up Meaningful Use. Those who have failed to adopt Meaningful Use have to pay penalties for not following the plan (Chin & Sakuda, 2012).
The collection and use of Meaningful Use program’s criteria provide a variety of implications for nursing, national health policy, patient outcomes, and population health.
Implications for Nursing
The role of nurses in health care cannot be overestimated. Nurses aim to provide patients with necessary care and create the best environment for treatment. The implementation of Meaningful Use is a significant improvement in the health care systems. For instance, nurses benefit when the information about drug checks and allergies is already available. However, working with the patient presupposes prescription of new medication and evaluation of health condition. Core criteria of both Stage 1 and Stage 1 require the immediate entrance of all information about the treatment. As a result, nurses face increasing workload due to the need to spend more time inserting data. This situation may lead to the lack of time devoted to the patient.
As Gelinas (2015) states, the Meaningful Use is connected with workforce issues. Nurses have to document everything to prove that their activities benefit patients’ health. The practice shows that it is necessary to request the improvement of the process of data entering. Otherwise, nurses will not be able to treat patients efficiently due to the need to work with programs. The use of core criteria is beneficial for all nurses, but the collection processes should be revised.
Implications for National Health Policy
On the national level, implications for core objectives concerning their collection and use are designed in the form of regulations that should be followed by health care providers. For instance, hospitals should start using the practice of electronic prescription of medications. Also, it is mandatory to enter information about smoking habits of all individuals. Such regulations aim to make all health records accessible.
Also, the National Health Policy includes other regulations such as the need to certify EHR systems (Health Policy Brief, 2010). The collection of data became rather a relative challenge for health providers initially because the regulations included more than twenty objectives that should have been achieved. The number of objectives was reduced for hospitals and health providers to cope with the amount of work to be done.
Patient Outcomes and Population Health
The implementation of Meaningful Use has positive outcomes for both patients and public health. Several studies have been evaluating the efficiency of the program in practice. The results of one of them demonstrate that ninety percent of health providers benefit from available health records. Health providers have access to complete information about the patient, and it lets physicians diagnose medical conditions quicker (Improved Diagnostics & Patient Outcomes, n.d.). The distinctive feature of EHR is that they compute the information. For example, the system may inform specialists about patient’s allergies, which is extremely useful when the patient is unconscious and requires immediate care.
Use of data can be advantageous for public health professionals too. For example, it is possible to evaluate the ratio and interconnection between particular habits and hypertension or any other diseases. EHRs allow see the overall picture and understand health care issues on the national level (Improved Diagnostics & Patient Outcomes, n.d.).
Meaningful Use Recommendations
Criteria in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 embrace all necessary information needed for the professional diagnosis of health condition and better health care. The absence of the need to add some new criteria is predetermined by the fact that objectives of Stages 1 and 2 are constantly reviewed. For instance, in 2015, providers were not required to document vital signs, smoking status, and demographic data. These objectives were reduced and, consequently, health providers had fewer measures to attest (Holtzman, 2015). Also, thresholds for measures that required patient participation in Stage 2 were reduced significantly to eliminate the burden of health care providers (Scheidlinger, 2015). The implication of such changes demonstrates that the system is being improved, and that is why there is no need to add other recommendations.
Implications of Meaningful Use provide both challenges and opportunities for nurses. Nurses may use the available information, but it takes a lot of time for them to document everything. National Health Policy aims to organize the collection of data and make it useful on the state level. Meaningful Use program has positive effects on patients and public health because of the possibility to assess health condition quickly and without errors. No additional recommendations for core criteria are provided as far as Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposes possible changes and improves objectives persistently.
Association of Public Health Laboratories. (2011). Meaningful Use Objectives & Implications to Public Health Lab. Web.
Chin, B., & Sakuda, C. (2012). Transforming and Improving Health Care through Meaningful Use of Health Information Technology. Hawai’i Journal of Medicine & Public Health, 71(4), 50-55.
Gelinas, L. (2015). Meaningful Use is a Workforce Issue. American Nurse Today, 10(9), 6.
Health Policy Brief. (2010). Web.
Holtzman, D. (2015). CMS Proposed Changes for Meaningful Use to Take Effect in 2015. Web.
Improved Diagnostics & Patient Outcomes. (n.d.). Web.
Scheidlinger, S. (2015). Meaningful Use: 6 things you need to know about the CMS Final Rule changes. Web.