In the 2004 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush stated “within the next 10 years, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) will ensure that complete health care information is available for most Americans at the time and place of care (U.S. Government)”. In order to encourage the widespread implementation of EHRs and to overcome the financial barrier to doing so, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 set aside $27 billion in incentives to be distributed over a ten-year period for hospitals and healthcare providers to adopt the meaningful use of EHRs (Encinosa, 2013). In 2011, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) implemented the Meaningful Use (MU) Incentive Program. In order to qualify for incentive payments under MU, providers must attest to meeting specific quality measures thresholds each year consisting of three stages with increasing requirement at each stage.
The Meaningful Use Incentive program was designed to ensure that EHRs are implemented and used in the appropriate manner by increasing healthcare quality while lowering healthcare costs. However, it is important to discern if the Meaningful Use incentive program is working appropriately because in 2015, if Medicare eligible providers (EPs) do not switch to EHRs, they will be penalized by reducing their fee schedule by 1.5% and by 2% for subsequent years (CMS, 2014). On a broader note, this topic is also important for healthcare administrators that have not yet invested in an EHR because if the Meaningful Use Incentive Program works in such a way that reduces cost and improves patient care, the implementation of an EHR should do the same as long as the MU program is followed. Furthermore, providing affordable, high quality care should be the main goal of every healthcare administrator. Currently, the United States spends more than $2.6 Trillion on healthcare per year and about half of that spending is wasteful while the U.S. quality of care is below that of other nations (Medical Mutual).
There is very little evidence on whether the Meaningful Use Incentive Program or Electronic Medical Records actually improve the quality of care. There is limited research focusing on the benefits of MU, and the healthcare community as a whole is only recently pursuing quality metric studies relating to MU and EHRs. Additionally, inconsistent findings and lack of strong positive evidence raises concern for many potential EHR adaptors. Since MU quality care measures were released concurrently with the EHR implementation, it is almost impossible to distinguish whether quality measures reported reflect true improvements in quality or an improved methodology of measuring the quality of care already being offered (Tjia, 2011).
There are a few specific quality improvements attributed to using the Meaningful Use Incentive Program. MU is attributed with lowering mortality rates for cardiovascular conditions and improving process...