Meaningful Use Compliant EHR Software

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Of the many rules and regulations that govern how behavioral health clinicians use electronic health record (EHR) software systems, meaningful use has been one of the most confusing. The history of meaningful use is complex and involves detours into new names and functions. However, the motivation behind meaningful use is still alive and well, and crucial for clinicians to understand when it comes to choosing appropriate EHR software.

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Meaningful Use Quick Facts

Here's a quick run-down of the basics about HIPAA:

Official Title: Medicare EHR Incentive Programs

Year Enacted: 2009

Aliases: EHR - MU, Promoting Interoperability Programs

Jurisdiction: State and local public health agencies

Most Recent Update to Meaningful Use: 2019

Meaningful Use Compliance & Enforcement: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

What Is Meaningful Use?

Meaningful use is part of a multi-tiered regulatory act introduced on Feb. 17, 2009. The overarching measure, called the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act, included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. HITECH introduced the EHR Incentive Programs, which defined what it meant to make meaningful use of EHR technology.

Today, meaningful use and the Medicare EHR Incentive Programs are interchangeable terms. The concept of meaningful use rests within five tenets of healthcare outcome priorities:

  1. Improving the quality, efficiency and safety of care while reducing disparities in care
  2. Engaging patients and their families in the management of their health
  3. Improving coordination of care
  4. Improving public health
  5. Ensuring privacy and security for the protection of private health information

There were three stages of meaningful use measures enacted to achieve these goals.

  • Stage 1: Established requirements for capturing clinical data electronically. These included acquiring the capability to provide patients with electronic copies of their health records.
  • Stage 2: Added criteria designed to advance clinical processes and encouraged the use of Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) for improving the quality of care and information exchange.
  • Stage 3: Continued the focus on improving outcomes with CEHRT, modified some reporting requirements and promoted alignment with various other CMS programs.

Meaningful Use and MIPS

In April 2018, CMS gave the EHR Incentive Programs a new name: Promoting Interoperability Programs. Although the name has changed, CMS still operates the program, and it addresses the original five goals of meaningful use. The program is now part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act and the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

Under MIPS, eligible clinicians can earn a bonus incentive payment of 7% for reporting year 2019 and up to 9% for reporting years afterward. Physicians and psychiatrists report on four categories, each differently weighted in the final score of up to 100 points.

  • Quality

  • Promoting Interoperability

  • Improvement Activities

  • Cost


In early 2019, CMS added clinical psychologists to the list of healthcare providers who can participate in MIPS. Psychologists only report on quality and improvement activities for this year, but requirements are likely to change in the future, so getting ahead of Promoting Interoperability will benefit psychology practices that want to future-proof their EHR system.

Penalties for Meaningful Use Non-Compliance

In its new iteration as Promoting Interoperability, meaningful use reporting is still technically voluntary. No particular governing body enforces it. However, if clinicians choose not to participate in this part of the program, they will receive a penalty on Medicare reimbursements totaling up to 7% in 2019 and 9% for each reporting year thereafter.

In combination with the incentives, this penalty effectively makes compliance mandatory if providers want to receive their full reimbursement from CMS.

Meaningful Use and Promoting Interoperability FAQ

There are so many sources of information on MIPS and what meaningful use requires for it that we've compiled five of the most common questions about the topic.

Meaningful use in this category includes promoting care coordination, patient engagement, population management and health equity with the electronic exchange of health data.

Meaningful Use Compliance and EHRs

Although meaningful use has multiple names and a complicated history, its primary goal is simple: to improve care and access to health records through the use of EHR technology. Choosing the right EHR makes a world of difference in terms of compliance.

The most critical step you can take toward meaningful use in 2019 is to adopt an EHR certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Certified EHR technology helps take the burden of compliance partially off your shoulders by meeting all the privacy requirements of HIPAA and bringing your documentation up to the standards of Promoting Interoperability.

Being able to demonstrate meaningful use makes you eligible for incentives and helps you avoid the growing penalties associated with non-compliance, and it can also improve the quality of your care by making note-writing easier and more thorough.

Conquer Compliance with ICANotes

One of the most significant challenges for behavioral health providers seeking a compliant EHR is that most are designed for physician use. ICANotes is an EHR designed specifically for behavioral and mental health professionals, with robust clinical features and unmatched flexibility. Our software is ONC-certified and continually updated to meet the standards of changing regulations.

To learn more about how ICANotes promotes interoperability and makes documentation simple, you can register for a free trial of the software. With the reduced burden of compliance you get with ICANotes, you can better keep your focus where it belongs: providing the best care possible for your patients.

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