Meaningful Use Has Arrived. What Now?

On June 16 the Workgroup on Meaningful Use presented its recommendations on the definition of Meaningful Use. They prepared a preamble describing their overall path to this definition and a matrix to organize their recommendations for each year. For those who have been under a rock for the past 6 months, “meaningful use” is the defining measure by which the incentive payments included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will be determined.

With this working definition, vendors, physicians, and hospitals can better plan for implementation and delivery of technology and services to achieve the measurable goals outlined by the Workgroup.

HITECH Act Incentives as outlined by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

Meaningful Use for Whom?

First it is important to note that “meaningful use” will have different meanings for hospitals and for groups in private practice. The preamble states “some features and capabilities will be recommended as required in an ambulatory setting before similar functions are expected to be widely used in the hospital.” This means that proving “meaningful use” will be a more rigorous exercise for private practices than it is for hospitals. However, private practices have a broader range of options and lower barriers of entry (cost, availability of technology, shorter implementation time frames, etc) when it comes to implementing technologies which can deliver “meaningful use.”

The Details

Let’s go over some of the measures which are planned for 2011 and look at some examples of each item. More details for each of the items below can be found in the matrix. John Halamka, MD of the CareGroup Health System of Harvard Medical School and the chairman of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) said in Healthcare IT News that this matrix still needs to be populated with the most up to date standards and an implementation guide. These details will help vendors and physicians alike ensure that their software meets these measures. Expect this in July.

Each of the items below has associated metrics which will need to be reported to verify meaningful use; for example, one of the objectives calls for reminders to patients for preventive/follow-up care. In order to prove meaningful use, the EMR application must be able to provide a reporting of the percentage of patients over 50 with annual colorectal screening. Keep in mind that each of the items below has an associated measure (found in the matrix) which will require reporting to an authorized agency.

Items marked with a Yes! indicate that the MTBC EMR helps your practice meet or exceeds these measures.

  1. Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities.
    1. Use CPOE (computerized physician order entry) for all order types including medications. Yes!
    2. Drug-drug, drug-allergy, drug-formulary checks. Yes!
    3. Maintain an update-to-date problem list. Yes!
    4. Generate and transmit electronic prescriptions. Yes!
    5. Record vital signs including height, weight, blood pressure. Yes!
    6. Generate list of patients by condition to use for quality improvement. Yes!
    7. Patient reminders for preventive/follow-up care. Yes!
  2. Engage patients and families
    1. Provide patients with access to clinical information (lab results, problem list, medications, etc.). Under development! Yes! A bit more information has filtered through on this point. It has to be “electronic” access i.e CD, flash drive, etc and not necessarily web-based access. We have this functionality and we are also working on web-based access to patient information which can be pushed through the EMR. (updated 7/1)
    2. Provide access to patient specific educational resources. Yes!
    3. Provide patients with clinical summaries for each encounter. Yes!
  3. Improve care coordination
    1. Exchange key clinical information among providers (problems, medications, allergies, test results). Yes!
    2. Perform medication reconciliation at relevant encounters. Yes!
  4. Improve population and public health
    1. Submit electronic data to immunization registries. Yes!
  5. Ensure adequate privacy and security protections for personal health information
    1. Compliance with HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and state laws. Yes!
    2. Compliance with fair data sharing practices. Yes!

What Now?

Now that you know the definition of Meaningful Use what should you do now? The answer is simple: get an EMR. Ok it is not that simple, but you will be happy to know that you have plenty of options in the marketplace. Dr. Halamka writes, “Hospitals and Clinician offices now know what is expected for 2011, so the time is now to begin your software implementations.” Never before have there been so many EMRs which provide such a high level of functionality and interoperability. Today’s major differentiators are not function, but price and service.

MTBC Can Help

MTBC’s CCHIT certified EMR (free to MTBC medical billing clients) can help your practice meet the goals of 2011. Click here to find out more about MTBC’s unified medical billing and practice managagement services.

However, if “free” is not your bag, you have plenty of other options beginning at the $1,000 range and your imagination as the only limit. Vendors have become very creative in their pricing with new options emerging such as monthly subscriptions, charges for each fax sent from the EMR, hosting fees for web-based applications, fees for technical support by email, server replacement plans (a la replacement plans sold by big box stores), 50¢ per 100MB of storage, and many others.

MTBC’s EMR rivals those of its competitors because it is implemented, supported, and updated completely free of charge of its premium medical billing clients. To find out more about how MTBC’s EMR can help you meet the goals of Meaningful Use, request a demo today and, if you are not currently an MTBC billing client, find out how you can download a free trial.

Watch this space for more information regarding meaningful use and its impact on the healthcare IT.