Medical practices receive an incentive through a Medicare incentive program for adopting and successfully demonstrating meaningful use (MU) of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT). In addition, they face payment penalties beginning in 2015, if they haven’t begun implementing the program. They have known about this requirement since at least 2010 when stage 1 of this three-stage program was rolled out. Yet, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), as of July 2014, less than 1,000 eligible providers (EPs) had successfully attested to stage 2.
Why have so few medical practices successfully met stage 2 criteria? Probably because there’s still a lot of confusing information or inaccurate assumptions out there about timelines and requirements. Some medical practices are struggling with the extra work created by implementing new technologies and processes.
Let’s take just one of the stage 2 objectives as an example—the Preventative Care Reminder Objective. In this objective, medical practices must identify patients who haven’t scheduled preventative or follow-up care and send them reminders. Medical practices must identify these patients using electronic health records and, when possible, send reminders according to the patient’s preferred communication method. So, the medical practice has to offer enough options besides traditional mail and direct phone contact—like electronic communications such as recorded voice, text messaging and email. There’s a lot of confusion out there about when this has to be implemented, what has to be reported, what the technical standards are and what to look for in an automated communication system.
According to Vital Interaction’s white paper, “Using Automation to Attain Meaningful Use Stage 2 Preventative Care Reminder Objectives,” here’s what you need to know about meeting this objective:
• Start of stage 2 has not been delayed. Everyone starts in stage 1, must complete at least two years at stage 1 and no one can start stage 2 before 2014.
• Data for identifying the patients must be pulled from data stored within the CEHRT.
• You may use a combination of best-in-class technology to meet this objective—a CEHRT to identify the patients and a separate automated communication system to deliver preventative care reminders.
• As long as data on the number of patients who were sent a reminder is captured in the automated communication system, the CEHRT does not need to capture that data.
• Automated electronic communications offer patients more options and help medical practices save time, decrease operating costs and increase appointments.
Equipped with accurate information and resources, medical practices can avoid some of the risks and challenges associated with adopting and successfully implementing meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology. More importantly, in the quest to achieve high-quality patient care as cost-effectively as possible, attesting for meaningful use stage 2 can be more than a burden. It can serve as a catalyst for creating more efficiencies in the workflow and easing the workload when medical practices select and use effective technologies.