Introduction to Meaningful Use

2014 is the last year to begin the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. Get started before the October 3rd deadline to earn incentives.

What is Meaningful Use?

Meaningful Use is a Medicare and Medicaid program that awards incentives for using certified electronic health records (EHRs) to improve patient care. To achieve Meaningful Use and avoid penalties, providers must follow a set of criteria that serve as a roadmap for effectively using an EHR.

Meaningful Use stages

Meaningful Use is implemented in a phased approach over a series of 3 stages.

  • Stage 1

    Promotes basic EHR adoption and data gathering

  • Stage 2

    Emphasizes care coordination and exchange of patient information

  • Stage 3

    Improves healthcare outcomes*

    *Under development by ONC

You will complete each Stage for at least 2 years before moving onto the next. Learn more »

Practice Fusion is certified

We are pleased to announce that Practice Fusion EHR Version 3.0 has been certified as a 2014 Meaningful Use Complete EHR. Practice Fusion’s EHR Version 3.0 utilizes Updox Direct 2014 for direct messaging. Learn more »

Am I eligible?

If you care for Medicare or Medicaid patients, you may qualify for the Meaningful Use program.

Check your eligibility »

Why start Meaningful Use?

Meaningful Use encourages you to switch from paper charts to electronic records while giving the best care to your patients. It improves your practice’s efficiency, and will earn you incentives. To avoid Meaningful Use Medicare penalties, you need to start Meaningful Use no later than 2014.

What are the Meaningful Use requirements?

To demonstrate Meaningful Use with your EHR, you must report on all of the program’s core measures and some of the menu measures.

Meaningful Use Stage 1 measures »

Meaningful Use Stage 2 measures »

Meaningful Use requires you to report on a set of clinical quality measures (CQMs), which enable providers to track various aspects of patient care.

Learn more about CQMs »

What is the reporting timeline?

During your first year of meeting Meaningful Use, you have to fulfill the criteria over a 90-day reporting period. After that, you have to demonstrate the criteria for a full calendar year. In 2014, providers beyond their first year of Meaningful Use will participate in a quarterly reporting period tied to quarters of the calendar year.

If you’re participating in the Medicaid program, you can Adopt, Implement, or Upgrade (AIU) a certified EHR or demonstrate meaningful use of one in your first year to earn incentives. You would follow the reporting timeline starting next year.

View your EHR Participation timeline »

What are the incentives and penalties?

Medicare EHR Incentive Program

Medicare incentive payments are equal to 75% of your annual Medicare Part B allowed charges up to a maximum yearly amount (see chart below).

Beginning in 2015, providers who are eligible for the Medicare Meaningful Use program who don’t successfully demonstrate Meaningful Use will be penalized—starting at 1% of Medicare Part B reimbursements and increasing each year to a maximum of 5%. There will be hardship exemptions for eligible providers.

Meaningful Use payment adjustments are based on achieving Meaningful Use two years before the adjustment year—so providers starting in 2013 avoid a penalty in 2015. Providers who demonstrate for the first time in 2014 will, however, avoid a 2015 penalty if they begin their reporting period by July 1st, 2014 and attest by October 1st, 2014.

Medicare Incentives

Max payout
in a year
  First year of participation   No
  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
2011 $18,000        
2012 $12,000 $18,000      
2013 $7,840 $11,760 $14,700    
2014 $3,920 $7,840 $11,760 $11,760  
2015 $1,960 $3,920 $7,840 $7,840 -1%
2016   $1,960 $3,920 $3,920 -2%
Total $43,720 $43,480 $38,220 $23,520 $0

Medicaid EHR Incentive Program

If you see Medicaid patients, you can earn up to $63,750 in incentive payments over the six years that you choose to participate in the program (see chart below). If you start in 2014, you can earn incentives through 2019. Please consult your state’s agency for information about a specific payment schedule.

Providers who are eligible for Meaningful Use under the Medicaid program are not subject to payment penalties, unless the provider is also eligible under the Medicare program.

Medicaid Incentives

Max payout
in a year
  First year of participation  
  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
2011 $21,250        
2012 $8,500 $21,250      
2013 $8,500 $8,500 $21,250    
2014 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500 $21,250  
2015 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500 $21,250
2016 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500
2017   $8,500 $8,500 $8,500 $8,500
2018     $8,500 $8,500 $8,500
2019       $8,500 $8,500
2020         $8,500
Total $63,750 $63,750 $63,750 $63,750 $63,750

How do I apply for a hardship exemption?

You may be exempt from Medicare penalties if you can show that demonstrating Meaningful Use would result in a significant hardship. To be considered for an exemption, you must complete a Hardship Exemption application along with the proof of the hardship. If approved, the hardship exemption is valid for only one payment year, and you would need to submit a new application for subsequent years. Examples of hardship exemption circumstances include: lack of infrastructure, unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters, and lack of face-to-face patient interaction. Learn more about hardship exemptions.