On July 13, 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services released the final criteria defining “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs). The aim behind these rules is to improve quality and efficiency of care by encouraging approximately 700 000 clinicians and 5000 acute care hospitals to use EHRs. With approximately $30 billion in incentives and the threat of reduced payments for those that fail to comply, meaningful use may represent the single most potent federal effort to change health care delivery in the past 2 decades. For practicing clinicians, the origins and likely effects of this rule may be opaque. It would be helpful to understand the motivation behind the key components of the meaningful use rules, where they are likely to take the US health care system (and the obstacles along the way), and the benefits and risks of a rapid transformation from paper to electronic record systems.
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