Physician executives offered a wide range of advice to the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics in a Washington hearing on how to define “meaningful use” of electronic health records.

NCVHS is an advisory body to the Department of Health and Human Services. The committee is weighing options for the definition, and HHS officials will consider its recommendations. The definition will help determine whether hospitals and group practices qualify for Medicare and Medicaid financial incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Here are some highlights:

* John Halamka, M.D., CIO at CareGroup Health System in Boston, boiled down a potential meaningful use definition to “Processes and workflow that facilitate improved quality and increased efficiency.”

* John Tooker M.D., CEO of the American College of Physicians, said regulators must make sure that the definition of meaningful use does not exceed the current requirements to earn software certification from the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.

* Terry McGeeney, M.D., president and CEO with the TransforMED unit of the American Academy of Family Physicians, suggested that the smallest group practices need a less rigorous standard for meaningful use than larger organizations.

* Blackford Middleton M.D., corporate director of clinical informatics research and development at Partners Healthcare in Boston, said that while the initial standard for meaningful use should be readily achievable with existing technology, “we should not set our sights too low” and risk hampering long-term advancements in quality.

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