Meaningful Use

Why is Meaningful Use (MU) important?

Meaningful Use is a Federal initiative amongst providers to convert to Electronic Medical Records, specifically those who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients. This incentive stretches over five years for Medicare and seven years for Medicaid providers. The incentive under Medicare totals $44,000 and $67,500 for Medicaid providers. It is important to note that after the incentive periods, penalties may be applied for providers who do not meet the Federal technology requirements.

What is Meaningful Use?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides incentives to healthcare providers that become meaningful users of certified electronic health records (EHR) to: 

  • Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities
  • Engage patients and families
  • Improve care coordination and population and public health
  • Maintain privacy and security


In simple language this means: 

  • It includes ways of using technology to improve the way we deliver care
  • “Meaningful Use” is really just a label for best practices
  • It helps to distinguish the use of technology versus using technology effectively
  • It is ultimately about healthcare transformation

What are the main components of Meaningful Use? 

  • Demonstrate the use of certified EHR technology in a meaningful manner
  • Use EHR technology in a manner that provides for the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of care
  • Use certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures


Each of the above areas has an associated set of underlying requirements. To qualify as a Meaningful User, providers must use certified EHR technology. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), approve the organizations that will conduct the certification testing. These organizations, called ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCB) are authorized to test and certify both complete EHR systems as well as EHR modules.  


Providers have been encouraged to convert from paper to electronic patient records (EMR) in 3 stages-  For each stage incentives are available for those providers who meet standards.  For Stage 1 the focus is on the adoption and use of an EMR. These efforts are well underway. Stage 2 will focus on the use of EMR’s as it pertains to sharing data across providers, while stage 3 will focus on showing better outcomes and greater efficiency through the effective use of EMR’s.

The recently published  Stage 2 guideline recommendations are offered for public comments before they will become final.   Stage2 Meaningful Use CMS Draft