The Department of Health and Human Services has released the final rule establishing Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs for the meaningful use of electronic health records. The rule is available for download now at, and will be officially published July 28 in the Federal Register, effective 60 days later. Also released was an accompanying final rule to establish initial data standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria for EHRs.

Meaningful use criteria in the final rule are substantially relaxed from what was previously proposed, but still comprehensive and a challenge to meet. David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology in recent months has said federal officials heard "loud and clear" that the proposed criteria were too ambitious. The final rule represents that the message was received, as the criteria no longer is the "all or nothing" approach that was proposed. "We very much want well-intentioned providers to become meaningful users of electronic health records," Blumenthal said during a media conference call on July 13.

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