The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) offer incentives for eligible providers who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of the electronic health record (EHR).

Meaningful use is defined by CMS as the use of the electronic health record to:

  • Improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care
  • Reduce health disparities
  • Engage patients and families in their care
  • Improve coordination of care and the health of the individuals to improve the health of the entire population

To evaluate meaningful use, CMS has identified 15 core objectives healthcare providers must meet. These objectives range from e-prescribing medications to ensuring the protection of electronic health information and data.

There are also 10 menu objectives that are required. These objectives range from performing drug formulary checks to performing medication reconciliation at each visit. In order to qualify for an incentive, all 15 of the core objectives and five of the 10 menu objectives must be met.

In addition to these objectives, healthcare providers must also meet six clinical quality measures. These relate more to treatment plans and preventative health assessments for patients, and include things like ensuring that diabetic foot exams are performed, hypertension is controlled with pharmacological treatment, and cervical cancer screening is completed within the recommended time frame.

Striving to comply with the meaningful use recommendations is necessary if the quality of patient care is to improve. However, the process is not free from its struggles and challenges. Addressing patient concerns and meeting the demands of meaningful use recommendations requires the provider to maintain just the right balance.

It is a tricky act, balancing art and science, government and business. Performing this balancing act often leaves us comparing our practice to a three-ring circus, in which we are the juggler, standing in the center of the stage. All eyes are on us, and we are expected to execute a flawless performance every time.

A successful performer is aware of their audience. Their goal is to please those who are watching them. Without an audience, there is no performance. Likewise, without a patient, there is no encounter. Without an encounter, there is a missed opportunity to improve health.

The goal of the healthcare provider is to care for the patient. A provider should never forget the art of medicine, the effectiveness of the simple act of touch or the importance of listening. Let us all strive to truly engage in meaningful patient encounters, not only with the use of the EHR but with the compassion and purpose that originally drew us to the profession.

Leigh Montejo, MSN, FNP-BC, is a National Public Health Service Corp scholar completing her service commitment as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Tampa Family Health Centers Inc. in Florida. Her areas of interest include adolescent health, health promotion and improving access to healthcare in underserved populations.