Doctor holding records

Background: EHRs

EHRs and EHR Adoption

EHRs enable the collection, maintenance, and exchange of data and information on patients’ health and the healthcare that they have received.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) (http://www.healthit.gov/newsroom/about-oncexternal icon), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, is overseeing the national transformation from paper-based to electronic health records. The position of National Coordinator was created in 2004. More information about ONC can be found here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/03/2014-12981/statement-of-organization-functions-and-delegations-of-authority-office-of-the-national-coordinatorexternal icon

What is Meaningful Use?

Meaningful Use refers to a set of rules that healthcare providers (both hospitals and individual providers) must follow in order to receive incentive payments and/or avoid penalties for the use of EHRs. The concept of Meaningful Use of EHRs was introduced in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) of 2009. More information about Meaningful Use can be found here:

http://www.hrsa.gov/healthit/meaningfuluse/MU%20Stage1%20CQM/whatis.htmlexternal icon

Certification of EHR Software

The Meaningful Use program says that healthcare providers and hospitals must use EHR software that meets certification requirements (Certified EHR Technology) in order to receive incentive payments. The ONC is responsible for the EHR Certification Program and issues regulations that specify the requirements that EHR software must meet in order to be certified. For more information about certification of EHRs, see: https://www.healthit.gov/policy-researchers-implementers/about-onc-health-it-certification-programexternal icon

Public Health and the Implementation and use of EHRs

The wide-scale implementation and use of EHRs across the healthcare delivery system in the U.S. has many implications for public health, presenting many opportunities to improve public health at the national, state, tribal, local, and territorial levels. Several CDC centers (including NIOSH) are actively working to support the transition to EHRs and ensure that the promise of EHRs to improve public health can be realized. You can read more about public health and EHRs at:


Page last reviewed: April 2, 2015