December 30, 2011
Meaningful Use is one of the most talked about components of the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Unfortunately it’s also one riddled with myths, rumors and misunderstandings.
Essentially, Meaningful Use (MU) is an incentive program established by HITECH and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). MU provides financial incentives to Medicare and Medicaid providers who have implemented an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system and demonstrated its use in a meaningful way to improve patient outcomes.
It is a complicated program of which the final implementation is being sorted out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Here are some of the most common myths:
1. I still have plenty of time.
Although the deadline for participating providers and hospitals to demonstrate meaningful use isn’t until Dec. 31, 2015, adoption of an EHR system is a lengthy process. The set up alone includes system training and practice integration. Depending upon the practice staff’s level of comfort with new technology, the learning curve can be long.
If the practice intends to take advantage of the incentive programs, time is running out. Medicare eligible providers have until Dec. 31, 2012 to attest to MU in order to be eligible for the maximum incentive payouts. Each year thereafter, the bonus amount decreases. If a provider does not attest by the end of 2015, penalties will be levied on Medicare and Medicaid payments..
2. Once EHR is set up, MU will be established.
Meaningful Use is not always instantly achieved upon implementation of an EHR system. In fact, it can take months to receive MU designation. Because MU criteria requires quantity and quality metrics, several patient visits need to be included in attestation documents. In addition the EHR must be in use for 90-continuous days in order to qualify for CMS incentives.
3. Your EHR vendor will provide your MU certification
The vendor’s main responsibility is providing the technologies making it possible to achieve MU. Some companies will make attestation easier through a variety of support programs, like DrFirst’s AttestEasy. Ultimately the burden of proving MU falls on the healthcare provider.
4. Meaningful Use is a project for your IT provider.
Although the initial set up and networking project will most likely fall with a computer expert, proving MU is the responsibility of the clinical and administrative team within the practice or hospital. Training may be offered by the IT provider, but after the initial set up phase, the IT provider role is complete, except for troubleshooting technical issues. Some offices may appoint an IT project manager to spearhead the program..
5. Meaningful Use only involves Medicare/Medicaid patients.
Although CMS offers the incentive program, EHR and attesting to MU in the practice covers all patient outcomes regardless of payer. When proving MU, data for every patient encounter entered into the EHR is taken into account for attestation.
6. We only need to prove five of the 25 set objectives in order to attest to MU.
That is partially true. All eligible providers must meet 15 core requirements of MU established to help realize the clinical and financial returns, including improved care coordination, e-prescribing and patient engagement. Providers then must choose at least five of ten additional measures which to attest.
There are instances where the criteria will not meet the practice’s workflow. If a particular objective is not relevant to the practice, the provider can attest to that and will not be required to meet the objective.
The Attestation process may seem daunting, but with time and experience, EHR and MU will make healthcare more efficient for both the provider and the patient.
What rumors have you heard? Are there any that are preventing you from implementing your EHR?