Cybersecurity Meaningful Use: Healthcare’s Next Big Incentive

If you worked in healthcare back in 2009, you surely have an opinion on the topic of meaningful use. You likely recall the blissful optimism the healthcare community had when the policy was first introduced—and the inevitable disruption and frustration that followed. Now, over a decade later, we’re still cleaning up the cybersecurity mess that meaningful use created.

What’s Meaningful Use?

I first heard the term “meaningful use” within the context of the HITECH Act, and my feelings about it were hope, not frustration. Proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS), the intention was to promote the meaningful use of health information technology by building out stages for healthcare organizations to transition completely from paper to electronic health records (EHRs). Minimum standards were established, and federal incentives were provided for health delivery organizations (HDOs) that progressed to each subsequent stage.

The proposed legislation was met with a lot of enthusiasm. Just a few years after being signed into law, it was successful; EHR adoption more than doubled from 2009 to 2013—a whopping $34.7 billion in government funding later.

It certainly wasn’t a perfect program. Some argued that it required too many objectives that were overly ambitious and unreasonable to meet in the given time frame. Perhaps the most warranted complaint about the initiative was that EHRs slowed clinicians down, defeating the meaning behind meaningful use. Today, HDOs are still coping with this challenge.

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