Official Resources for Meaningful Use

Know the Federal Entities Supporting Meaningful Use

Chuck Penoza
Director, Data Consulting Group (DCG), Detroit.

Health IT stakeholders such as EHR Developers, clinicians, researchers, and policy-makers have an overwhelming number of places to find information regarding Meaningful Use in general, and the Objectives and Clinical Quality Measures specifically.  Some of these sources are official, but somewhat cumbersome to use (such as the legislation itself); while others are easy to digest but are provided by commercial, non-official sources with varying business interests.  This article will focus on a few publicly-available, official tools with a particular emphasis on USHIK – the United States Health Information Knowledgebase, provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Several Federal entities have important responsibilities for supporting the Meaningful Use initiative.  Congress passed the underlying legislation, while HHS has overall authority for implementing the program.  Within HHS, CMS administers the Incentive Program for Electronic Health Records, while ONC is responsible for maintaining the Standards and Certification for Electronic Health Records, and National Library of Medicine (NLM) is responsible for maintaining and publishing the Value Sets included in the Clinical Quality Measures.  AHRQ provides Meaningful Use support in the form of USHIK as part of its broad mission to support the Secretary of HHS.

These HHS entities provide several online tools that support Meaningful Use stakeholders:

  • The CMS website is a repository for the official Final Rules that establish the eligibility and objectives of the Meaningful Use program as well as the supporting processes.
  • The eSpecification Navigator, also provided by CMS, is a powerful, interactive tool that allows a user to browse Clinical Quality Measures and their related artifacts.
  • The NLM’s Value Set Authority Center is an easy-to-use, interactive repository for accessing Value Sets that allows a user to filter, view, and download one or more Value Sets.  This tool also supports access to Value Sets via web services.
  • AHRQ’s USHIK tool aims to be a “one-stop shop” that provides access to all of the Meaningful Use Objectives, Clinical Quality Measures, and Value Sets, along with search, filter, view, comparison, and download tools.  USHIK data is available via a browser or via web services.

All of these tools are updated to include the April release of the 2014 Eligible Hospital Clinical Quality Measures.  All will be updated with 2014 Eligible Professional measures in June of 2013.

The USHIK tool, which is developed and maintained by AHRQ in coordination with CMS, ONC, and the NLM, houses Meaningful Use data in a dedicated portal.  From this portal, a user can interactively search for one or more Stage 1 or Stage 2 objectives for either Eligible Hospitals or Eligible Professionals, and can easily view or download the selection.  Likewise, for either Stage, a user can interactively search for a specific  Clinical Quality Measure(s), and can view, compare, or download individual measures or the entire set.  USHIK also links Value Sets to measures and provides search/view/compare/download capabilities for Value Sets as well. Accessing the Value Set detail through the VSAC or via USHIK requires a UTS account.  This account is free for many users and can be obtained easily from the NLM website.  Finally, USHIK offers a single, all-in-one file that contains all of the current Clinical Quality Measures and Value Sets in a single file available in Microsoft Excel, XML, or comma-separated formats.  A future installment will focus on how USHIK supports specific use cases, helping Meaningful Use stakeholders accomplish their objectives as efficiently as possible.

Meaningful Use practitioners of all types should consider familiarizing themselves with these free, official, publicly-available tools.

Chuck Penoza is a Director at Data Consulting Group (DCG) in Detroit and the project manager of the USHIK initiative for AHRQ. DCG provides a full range of people, process and technology services to government, provider, and payer clients who are implementing initiatives related to health reform.