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IT & Data Security

Is Your Healthcare IT Company an Industry Leader & Office Ready for 2015 for Meaningful Use?

(932 words)

Many physician practice managers breathed a sigh of relief when The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) extended the Meaningful Use (MU) deadline recently. The extension was praised by the American Medical Association, whose members expressed concern that only 24 percent of physicians had submitted data as of the beginning of February.

Meaningful Use refers to provisions in the 2009 Health Information for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that allow for Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. Providers and hospitals can earn incentive payments for the “meaningful use” of certified EHR technology. While some healthcare professionals are well into the MU process, others are just getting started. Wherever you are on the road to implementation, here’s some information you need to know.

Reporting Periods Have Been Reduced

At the end of January, CMS announced it will reduce the reporting period from 365 days to just 90 days. Medicare providers that just started stage one in 2014 can select any 90-day reporting period to demonstrate their meaningful use. Practices that are in the second year of stage one or are in stage two must choose a 90-day period that begins on the first day of a new quarter (January 1, April 1, July 1 or October 1). Medicaid providers can choose any 90-day period regardless of when stage one was started. Providers can manually submit their MU data during attestation or they can submit it electronically through their EHR.

Patient Engagement is Key

Patient engagement is now a core requirement for stage one and stage two. MU mandates 50 percent of your patients be given access to their health information online. Additionally, five percent of patients need to log in through the EHR portal to view their health data online and send a secure message to their provider. Does your EHR technology include patient engagement features to help meet this requirement? If so, is your practice using it? Encourage patients during check-out by having a laptop readily available. Show them how easy it is to set up a log-in, send messages, view lab results and set up appointments.

Improving engagement has benefits beyond MU compliance. A recent study found that 40 percent of physicians believe better patient engagement can improve the performance of their practice. Another survey found that 93 percent of doctors feel engagement through mobile health apps can improve patient outcomes.

Prepare for an Audit

Audit is a scary word for anyone running a business. Unfortunately, some providers will be chosen at random by CMS for an audit. How can you be prepared? The first rule is to assume you will be audited. Clearly document all the steps taken throughout the process. When did your registration/attestation take place? MU started back in 2011. So, providers across the country are at various stages of implementation. Don’t assume CMS has accurately recorded who began when. Take a screenshot that includes a date stamp on the day functionality was turned on. If you do receive an audit letter, respond immediately. Auditors will be looking for contradictions between documentation submitted and what was actually done. Ensure that the staff responsible for certain pieces of MU actually did what you think they did at the right time. Lastly, work with your EHR provider to give CMS the proper certification documentation.

Are Incentives Working?

A report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (NCHIT) showed that EHR use has increased significantly due to the financial incentives. Eighty percent of physicians surveyed are now either using EHR technology or plan to adopt it soon. Only one in 10 say they are not adopting EHR, and 41 percent of those said the reason was because they are retiring. While financial incentive was the biggest factor, many physicians listed reasons for conversion such as board certification requirements, recommendations from peers and the capability to exchange information with other physicians. Those that have adopted EHR and met MU requirements are reaping the rewards. As of December 2014, more than 431,000 healthcare providers had received incentive payments.

The benefits of EHR go far beyond the financial incentives, however. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 percent of EHR adopters said the conversion resulted in enhanced patient care and 94 percent said their EHR ensures records are readily available at point of care.

Doctors attest to benefits, including:

  • Improved coordinated care. The ability to share information with patients and other physicians improves collaboration.
  • Safer care through reduced errors. EHR technology not only records data, it alerts physicians to medications, allergies or other conflicts in care. For example, an emergency room doctor can access data recorded by a primary care physician that alerts the ER staff to life-threatening allergies.
  • Enhanced patient/provider interaction. Patients feel like their physician is more accessible through enhanced communication methods provided by EHRs.
  • Quicker diagnosis. The comprehensive picture of patient health provided by EHR technology enables physicians to find problems faster.

The NCHIT report revealed another interesting statistic. Forty-six percent of physicians that had not implemented an EHR system said they would do it if technical assistance were provided. Don’t let the lack of technical assistance or knowledge stop your practice from reaping the benefits of EHR technology. For Medicare and Medicaid providers, avoiding implementation directly affects your bottom line. The same can be said for other providers as well. As EHR improves efficiency in your office, productivity increases, making EHR a valuable tool. Improve patient care and run a more productive office by exploring the EHR solutions provided by [company name]. Our professionals are dedicated to helping you improve your healthcare IT strategy, while complying with healthcare reform legislation. Contact us to learn more.

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