Meaningful Use Woes

By Nicolas Terry

Keen observers of the Administration’s “meaningful use” subsidy program for electronic medical records (EMRs) will not have been surprised by the reaction of stakeholders to last week’s publication of the “Stage 2” regulations, here. CQ HealthBeat’s John Reichard, here, contrasts the enthusiastic support of patient advocates with the American Hospital Association’s more curmudgeonly “We are disappointed that this rule sets an unrealistic date by which hospitals must achieve the initial meaningful use requirements to avoid penalties.” In a new piece, available here, I argue that the EMR adoption picture is considerably more nuanced that this binary would suggest and that there is reason to doubt the conventional wisdom that EMRs will solve many if not all of healthcare’s quality and efficiency woes. Rather, I take the position that the current generation of EMRs may not be capable of promoting major safety or quality gains because of problems with their usability, technological limitations that impede interoperability, and concerns about their safety.