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A number of measures for Meaningful Use objectives for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) include patients admitted to the Emergency Department (ED). Which ED patients should be included in the denominators of these measures for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs?

On September 17, 2010, we issued an FAQ that explained that our intent to include in the denominator visits to the emergency department (ED) of sufficient duration and complexity that all of the Meaningful Use objectives for which the ED is included would be relevant.  Therefore we explained that eligible hospitals and CAHs should count in the denominator patients admitted to the inpatient part of the hospital through the ED, as well as patients who initially present to the ED and who are treated in the ED’s observation unit or who otherwise receive observation services.



Since that response was issued, we have received questions regarding which observation services should be included.  We have also received responses noting that the plain language of the regulation would allow for a reading that counts all emergency department visits, and not just those identified in our September 17th FAQ.  
Therefore, we are revising our FAQ to allow eligible hospitals and CAHs, as an alternative, for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, to use a method that is consistent with the plain language of the regulation.  There are two methods for calculating ED admissions for the denominators for measures associated with Stage 1 of Meaningful Use objectives. Eligible hospitals and CAHs must select one of the methods below for calculating ED admissions to be applied consistently to all denominators for the measures. That is, eligible hospitals and CAHs must choose either the “Observation Services method” or the “All ED Visits method” to be used with all measures. Providers cannot calculate the denominator of some measures using the “Observation Services method,” while using the “All ED Visits method” for the denominator of other measures. Before attesting, eligible hospitals and CAHs will have to indicate which method they used in the calculation of denominators.
Observation Services method. The denominator should include the following visits to the ED:

  • The patient is admitted to the inpatient setting (place of service (POS) 21) through the ED.  In this situation, the orders entered in the ED using certified EHR technology would count for purposes of determining the computerized provider order entry (CPOE) Meaningful Use measure.  Similarly, other actions taken within the ED would count for purposes of determining Meaningful Use
  • The patient initially presented to the ED and is treated in the ED’s observation unit or otherwise receives observation services. Details on observation services can be found in the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 6, Section 20.6. Patients who receive observation services under both POS 22 and POS 23 should be included in the denominator.

All ED Visits method. An alternate method for computing admissions to the ED is to include all ED visits (POS 23 only) in the denominator for all measures requiring inclusion of ED admissions. All actions taken in the inpatient or emergency departments (POS 21 and 23) of the hospital would count for purposes of determining meaningful use.


For more information about the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, please visit http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms.