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Breaking News: Meaningful Use is Not Covering Costs

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In one of my recent interviews with a healthcare IT consulting company, they revealed some breaking news for those of us in the EHR world. They told me point blank that:

Meaningful Use is Not Covering Costs

Ok, so that’s not really breaking news. Although, it seems that very few people want to actually articulate this point. It almost feels like heresy that someone would “complain” about the fact that the government is spending $36 billion on EHR incentives and that the money isn’t enough to cover the implementation of these EHR systems.

Actually, I should clarify that last point. The EHR incentive money is covering the costs to purchase the systems. It’s not covering the costs of implementing those EHR systems and then poking, prodding and otherwise cajoling end users to show meaningful use of that system (not to be confused with meaningfully using the system).

Let me also be clear that I’m not complaining about the EHR incentive money. I’ve done enough of that previously. What I’m just trying to acknowledge is something that everyone who deals with the EHR budget already realizes, but no one seems to want to say it. Organizations are spending more money on EHR and meaningful use than they’re getting from the government.

I think this is important for a couple reasons. First, many organizations didn’t budget any EHR money beyond what the EHR incentive money. You can certainly argue this was a mistake on their part, but that’s going to leave a bunch of organizations in a lurch. We’re already seeing the fall out of this as news reports keep coming out about hospitals systems in financial trouble due to the costs of their EHR system. Plus, in each of these cases, it seems their costs continue to balloon out of control with no end in sight. It makes me wonder if the compressed meaningful use timeline is partially to blame for a rushed implementation and poor EHR implementation and cost planning.

Second, there is still a swash of providers and organizations that haven’t yet implemented their EHR. If you can’t support the cost of EHR with government money, how does that bode for those who won’t be getting any EHR incentive money? One could make the argument that they’ll actually be in a better position since they won’t have to worry about meaningful use and can just focus on getting value out of their EHR. Hopefully that’s the case, but many of the meaningful use functions are now hardcoded into the EHR systems. Even if an organization isn’t planning on attesting to meaningful use, that doesn’t mean they won’t be forced by their EHR software to do a bunch of things they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

What are you seeing from your perspective? Is the EHR incentive money covering the costs of an EHR implementation? What are the impacts if it doesn’t?

April 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

EMR Interfaces, MU vs Quality Care, and Data Outside EMR

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I’m not sure I agree completely with this tweet. I don’t know enough about Covery My Meds to say either way. Although, I wondered if many EMRs will integrate with Covery My Meds. From my experience, EMR vendors don’t want to interface with many outside software companies. A few embrace outside companies interfacing with them. We’ll see if that changes over time.


I haven’t had a chance to look at this study yet, but did anyone think that quality of care would improve because of MU?


No doubt we’ll eventually have outside data from wellness tracking apps incorporated in EMR, but I don’t think it will ever be a free for all. There are tens of thousands of wellness apps and I don’t see doctors wanting data from just any app. They’ll want to only get data from apps they trust. That’s a high bar for most apps. Plus, once you win the trust of one doctor, you still have to win the trust of all the other doctors. There’s not a trusted third party that doctors look to for apps.

April 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Lack of 2014 Certified EHRs

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I was asked recently by an EHR vendor about the disconnect between the number of 2011 Certified EHR and the number of 2014 Certified EHR. I haven’t looked through the ONC-CHPL site recently, but you can easily run the number of certified EHR vendors there. Of course, there’s a major difference in the number of 2011 certified EHR versus 2014 certified EHR. However, I don’t think it’s for the reason most people give.

Every EHR vendor that gets 2014 Certified likes to proclaim that they’re one of the few EHR vendors that was “able” to get 2014 Certified. They like to point to the vast number of EHR that haven’t bridged from being 2011 Certified to being 2014 Certified as a sign that their company is special because they were able to complete the “more advanced” certification. While no one would argue that the 2014 Certification takes a lot more work, I think it’s misleading for EHR companies to proclaim themselves victor because they’re “one of the few” EHR vendors to be 2014 Certified.

First of all, there are over 1000 2014 Certified EHR products on ONC-CPHL as of today and hundreds of them (223 to be exact – 29 inpatient and 194 ambulatory) are even certified as complete EHR. Plus, I’ve heard from EHR vendors and certifying bodies that there’s often a delay in ONC putting the certified EHR up on ONC-CPHL. So, how many more are 2014 Certified that aren’t on the list…yet.

Another issue with this number is that there is still time for EHR vendors to finish their 2014 EHR certification. Yes, we’re getting close, but no doubt we’ll see a wave of last minute EHR certifications from EHR vendors. It’s kind of like many of you reading this that are sitting on your taxes and we’ll have a rush of tax filings in the next few days. It’s not a perfect comparison since EHR certification is more complex and there are a limited number of EHR Certification slots from the ONC-ATCB’s, but be sure there are some waiting until the last minute.

It’s also worth considering that I saw one report that talked about the hundreds (or it might have been thousands) of 2011 Certified EHR that never actually had any doctors attest using their software. If none of your users actually attested using your EHR software, then would it make any business sense to go after the 2014 EHR certification? We can be sure those will drop out, but I expect that a large majority of these aren’t really “EHR” software in the true sense. They’re likely modularly certified and add-ons to EHR software.

To date, I only know of one EHR software that’s comes out and shunned 2014 Certified EHR status. I’m sure we’ll see more than just this one before the deadline, but my guess is that 90% of the market (ie. actual EHR users) already have 2014 Certified EHR software available to them and 99% of the market will have 2014 certified EHR available if they want by the deadline.

I don’t think 2014 EHR certification is going to be a differentiating factor for any of the major EHR players. All the major players realize that being 2014 Certified is essential to their livelihood and a cost of doing business.

Of course, the same can’t be said for doctors. There are plenty of ways for doctors to stay in business while shunning 2014 Certified EHR software and meaningful use stage 2. I’m still really interested to see how that plays out.

April 11, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

My Optimism for Healthcare IT – #DoMoreHIT

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As I posted about previously, I took part in the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event last week. This was my second year participating in the event, and I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating discussion. In many ways it makes me wish that there was a health IT conference that was 2 days of stimulating discussion like we had, but with a larger mix of people. Would be a great experience.

At the end of the event, we were asked to summarize our thoughts about the event and where we were headed with healthcare IT. Here’s the video of my response:

Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the meaningful use or ICD-10 mire (especially given all the ICD-10 delay talk). That’s natural since they are important issues. However, as I say in the video, I think we’re just getting started when it comes to the impact for good that IT will have on healthcare. Sure we have challenges, but the opportunities and potential is much greater than the challenges.

If you missed the live stream of the event, you can watch the recording here. Also, they had an artist capturing the event as we talked. Check them out below (click on the image to see the larger size):

March 28, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Surviving 2014: The Toughest Year in Healthcare

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The following is a guest blog post by Ben Quirk, CEO of Quirk Healthcare Solutions.
Ben Quirk
How bad is 2014 for the healthcare industry? We’ve all read about ICD-10, EHR incentives, Medicare cuts, and the Affordable Care Act. But the most telling moment for me occurred during this year’s HIMSS conference in Orlando. There was quite a bit of B2B enthusiasm, but among the civilians it was mostly a lot of stunned looks and talk about how to get through the year. Here are some of my observations:

ICD-10. CMS has made it abundantly clear there will be no further delays to the October 1 deadline for ICD-10 implementation. This is possibly the most significant change to the healthcare industry in 35 years, affecting claims payment/billing systems, clearinghouses, and private and public software applications. Anyone who provides or receives healthcare in the US will be touched by this in some way.

In a recent poll of healthcare providers conducted by KPMG, less than half of the respondents said they had performed basic testing on ICD-10, and only a third had completed comprehensive tests. Moreover, about 3 out of 4 said they did not plan to conduct tests of any kind with entities outside their organizations.

Incorrect claims denial will be the most likely result. CMS will not process ICD-9 Medicare/Medicaid claims after October 1, and there is a high potential for faulty ICD-10 coding or bad mapping to ICD-9 codes. Error rates of 6 to 10 percent are anticipated, compared to an average of 3 percent under ICD-9. ICD-10 will result in a 100 to 200 percent increase in denial rates, with a related increase in receivable days of 20 to 40 percent. Cash flow problems could extend up to two years following implementation. This will be a costly issue for providers, and a very visible issue for patients.

We advise our clients to be proactive in their financial planning. This should include preparation for delayed claims adjudication and payments, adjustments to cash reserves, or even arranging for a new/increased line of credit. Having sufficient cash on hand to cover overhead during the final quarter of 2014 could be very important, as could future reserves to cover up to six months of payment delays. Companies not in a position to set aside reserves should consider working with lenders now before any issues arise.

Meaningful Use. As with ICD-10, CMS has stated there will be no delays to MU deadlines in 2014. That means providers who have never attested must do so by September 30, or else be subject to penalties in the form of Medicare payment adjustments starting in 2015. Providers who have attested in the past will have a bit longer (until December 31), but the penalties are the same.

There is much dissatisfaction with the government’s “all or nothing” approach to MU, where even the slightest misstep can invalidate an otherwise accurate attestation. While the ONC has proposed a more lenient model for EHR certification in coming years, everything will be measured against a hard deadline in 2014.  CMS is offering some mitigation through hardship exemptions, based on rules that are somewhat broad at this point. Providers should consider applying for an exemption if no other options are available.

We advise against taking shortcuts or rushing to beat the clock on MU. Up to ten percent of eligible professionals and hospitals will be subject to audit, and large hospitals may have millions of dollars at stake. Being prepared for an audit means more than just making sure an attestation is iron-clad; internal workflow and communication are also important. A mishandled audit notification can result in a late response and automatic failure.  Data security should also not be overlooked. Medical groups have failed audits due to lapsed security risk assessments as required under HIPAA.

Medicare Payment Cuts. Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cuts continue to hover over Medicare providers. Enacted by Congress in 1997, the SGR was intended to control costs by cutting reimbursements to providers based on prior year expenditures. But every year costs continue to rise, as do ever-worse SGR cuts (almost 24% in 2015). And every year Congress prevents the cuts via so-called “doc fix” legislation.

In early 2014 there was surprising bi-partisan agreement on a permanent doc fix, whereby Medicare reimbursements would be based on quality measures rather than overall expenditures. However, the legislation was derailed by linking it to a delay of the ACA’s individual mandate. As of mid-March there is still no permanent or temporary solution. Congress will almost certainly intervene to prevent SGR cuts, but by how much is uncertain.

The ACA. As the cost of insurance has increased over the past decade, high-deductible plans have become more and more common. Due to the Affordable Care Act, this trend has become the norm. Media outlets focus on the impact to consumers, and argue about whether more “skin in the game” leads to better choices or less care. What we’re hearing from the front lines is much more concrete: high deductibles are having a negative impact on revenues.

Very few people understand their liabilities under a typical health insurance plan. Last year George Loewenstein, a health-care economist with Carnegie Mellon University, published a survey showing that only 14 percent of respondents understood the basics of traditional insurance policies. At the same time, hospitals report that about 25 percent of bad debt originates from patients who are currently insured. With millions of new enrollees in high-deductible plans and an ongoing economic slump, the situation can only get worse.

The ACA had a further impact by reducing the amount of Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) charity funds available, based on a projected increase in insurance coverage.  But with some states not participating in Medicaid expansion, combined with an increase in patients lacking the knowledge or resources to manage large medical expenditures, the reduction in funds comes at exactly the wrong time.

Providers can cope by adjusting revenue cycle processes. For example, new programs should focus on estimating patient liabilities pre-arrival, educating the patient at check-in, and instituting proactive billing/collection at the point of service. In general, providers must pay more attention to the self-pay process, focusing on patient education and offering transparent, easy-to-use billing and payment methods.

Value Modifier. This program has not been a worry for most providers thus far. Not because it won’t have an impact on revenue, but because they don’t know about it. A little-known provision of the ACA, the Value-Based Payment Modifier mandates adjustments to Medicare reimbursement based on quality and cost measures. The program is being phased in, and so far has applied only to group practices of 100 or more Eligible Professionals (EPs). In 2014, smaller groups of 10 or more EPs will be subject to the legislation. These groups must apply and report to the program by October 1. Otherwise, they will be subject to a 2 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements starting in 2016.

One of the most important aspects of the program is its definition of “eligible professional” when defining the size of a group practice. For the purposes of Value Modifier, eligible professionals include not only physicians but also practitioners and therapists. That means that a practice with 8 physicians, a nurse practitioner, and a physical therapist would qualify as a practice with 10 EPs.

Value Modifier is part of the growing trend toward quality-based reimbursement. Even commercial payers are considering some version of the program. The scoring calculations are complex and poorly understood, so we advise clients to get up-to-speed as soon as possible. Groups with high quality and low cost will receive incentives rather than cuts, with additional upward adjustment for services to high-risk beneficiaries. Groups that are not paying attention may be surprised by an additional hit to revenue in 2016. In addition, quality scores will eventually be published to the general public on the Medicare.gov Physician Compare website.  Sub-par or missing scores could have a negative financial impact on a practice.

Conclusion

These are only the most high-profile impacts to the healthcare industry during the current year. Much else flows from them: changes to workflow, to computer systems, to financial expectations. Tremendous pressures are coming to bear within a limited timeframe.  We’re seeing an industry in the midst of tectonic change, with 2014 as the fault line. It’s unclear whether these disruptions will be for better or worse. But there certainly will be winners and losers, and those who plan ahead are most likely to survive.

______________________

Ben Quirk is CEO of Quirk Healthcare Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in EHR strategic management, workflow optimization, systems development, and training. The company’s clients have enjoyed remarkable success, including award of the Medicare Advantage 5-star rating. Quirk Healthcare presents a weekly webinar series, Insights, to inform clients and the general public about government programs and industry trends. Mr. Quirk is also Executive Director of the Quirk Healthcare Foundation, a learning institution which fosters innovation in the healthcare industry.

March 26, 2014 I Written By

This Geek Girl’s Singing: HIMSS 14 Social Media Finale

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As one of the inaugural crop of HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors, a second-generation native Floridian, and a former Orlando resident, it is my sworn duty to summarize, recap, and perhaps satirize the last group of Blog Carnival posts, to metaphorically sing the HIMSS opera finale. And you folks submitted some doozies! I’m very grateful to the HIMSS (@HIMSS) and SHIFT Communications (@SHIFTComm) team for providing me with links to all entries. Y’all have been BUSY!

A man after my own heart, and a frequent #HITsm participant who weathers harsh criticism with witty aplomb: Dan Haley’s (from athenahealth, @DanHaley5) piece on 3 Takeaways From HIMSS – Policy And Otherwise caught my attention with the line, “Regulators are from Mars…” He stole my favorite blog entry prize with the line: “Orlando is magical when you are a kid. Kids don’t attend HIMSS.”

First-time attendee Jeffrey Ting (from Systems Made Simple) outlined his experiences with some of my favorite topics in his piece, HIMSS Reflections By A First-Time Attendee: HIEs and interoperability. I agree with him: the Interoperability Showcase’s “Health Story” exhibit was one of the best presentations of the whole conference.

Dr. Geeta Nayyar’s perspective as a board member of HIMSS and CMIO for PatientPoint gave her a unique vantage point for her post, HIMSS 14: A Truly Inspiring Event. Take note, HIMSS conference planners – your monumental efforts were recognized, as was the monumental spirit of the closing keynote speaker, Erik Weihenmayer.

HIMSS Twitter recaps permeated the blogosphere, with my favorite being the inimitable Chuck Webster’s (@wareflo) HIMSS14 Turned It Up To 11 On And Off-Line!. Chuck also periodically provided trend analysis results of year-over-year #HIMSS hashtag traffic for each period of the conference, complete with memes for particular shapes: Loch Ness monster humped-back, familiar faces of frequent tweeters.

Health IT guru Brian Ahier’s (@ahier) wrapped up the “Best In Show” of HIMSS Blog Carnival , complete with Slideshare visuals awarding Ed Parks of Athenahealth “Best Presentation” and providing an excellent summation of must-read posts.

Interoperability was one of the most prevalent themes of HIMSS, and a plethora of posts discussing the healthcare industry’s progress on the path to Dr. Doug Fridsma’s (@Fridsma) High Jump Of Interoperability (Semantic-Level) were submitted to the Blog Carnival. Notable standouts included: Shifting to a Culture of Interoperability by Rick Swanson from Deloitte, and Dr. Summarlan Kahlon’s (of Relay Health), Diagnosis: A Productive HIMSS 2014, which posited that, “this year’s conference was the first one which convinced me that real, seamless patient-level interoperability is beginning to happen at scale.”

And who could forget about patient engagement, the belle of the HIMSS ball? Telehealth encounters, mobile health apps and implications, patient portals, and the Connected Patient Gallery dominated the social media conversation. Carolyn Fishman from DICOM Grid called it, HIMSS 2014: The Year of the Patient, and discussed trepidation patients feel about portal technologies infringing on face-time.

Quantified-self wearable-tech offered engagement opportunities, as well. Having won one such gadget herself, Jennifer Dennard (@SmyrnaGirl) gave props to organizations like Patientco and Nuance for their use (and planned use) of wearable tech in support of employee wellness programs, and posited on the applications of such tech in the monitoring and treatment of chronic disease in her piece, Watching for Wearables at HIMSS14.

Finally, if you’re able to read Lisa Reichard’s (from Billians Health Data) @billians) highlights piece,Top 10 Tales and Takeaways, without busting out into Beatles tunes, you probably wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun as she and I did at HISTalkapalooza, dancing to Ross Martin’s smooth parodies. You also probably don’t have your co-workers frantically purchasing noise-canceling headphones.

I did say I’d be singing to bring HIMSS to a virtual close.

Can’t wait to get back to the metaphorical microphone for HIMSS 2015 in Chicago!

March 14, 2014 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a healthcare IT consultant and a hardcore data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, who fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

Eyes Wide Shut: Meaningful Use Stage 2 Incentive Program Hardships

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In my January update on Meaningful Use Stage 2 readiness, I painted a dismal picture of a large IDN’s journey towards attestation, and expressed concern for patient safety resulting from the rush to implement and adopt what equates to, at best, beta-release health IT. Given the resounding cries for help from the healthcare provider community, including this February 2014 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, I know my experience isn’t unique. So, when rumors ran rampant at HIMSS 2014 that CMS and the ONC would make a Meaningful Use announcement, I was hopeful that relief may be in sight.

Like AHA , I was disappointed in CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner’s announcement. The new Stage 2 hardship exemptions will now include an explicit criteria for “difficulty implementing 2014-certified EHR technology” – a claim which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and may result in a delay of the penalty phase of the Stage 2 mandate. But it does nothing to extend the incentive phase of Stage 2 – without which, many healthcare providers would not have budgeted for participation in the program, at all, including the IDN profiled in this series. So how does this help providers like mine?

Quick update on my IDN’s progress towards Stage 2 attestation, with $MM in target incentive dollars at stake. We must meet ALL measures; there is no opportunity to defer one. The Transition of Care (both populating it appropriately, and transmitting it via Direct) is the primary point of concern.

The hospital EHR is ready to generate and transmit both Inpatient Summary and Transition of Care C-CDAs. The workflow to populate the ToC required data elements adds more than 4 minutes to the depart process, which will cause operational impacts. None of the ambulatory providers in the IDN have Direct, yet; there is no one available to receive an electronic ToC. Skilled resources to implement Direct with the EHR upgrades are not available until 6-12 weeks after each upgrade is complete.

None of the 3 remaining in-scope ambulatory EHRs have successfully completed their 2014 software upgrades. 2 of the 3 haven’t started their upgrades. 1 has not provided a DATE for the upgrade.

None of the ambulatory EHRs comes with a Clinical Summary C-CDA configured out-of-the-box. 1 creates a provider-facing Transition of Care C-CDA, but does not produce the patient-facing Clinical Summary. (How did this product become CEHRT for 2014 measures?) Once the C-CDA is configured, each EHR requires its own systems integrator to develop the interface to send the clinical document to an external system.

Consultant costs continue to mount, as each new wrinkle arises. And with each wrinkle, the ability to meet the incentive program deadlines, safely, diminishes.

Playing devil’s advocate, I’d say the IDN should have negotiated its vendor contracts to include penalty clauses sufficient to cover the losses of a missed incentive program deadline – or, worst case scenario, to cover the cost of a rip-and-replace should the EHR vendor not acquire certification, or have certification revoked. The terms and conditions should have covered every nuance of the functionality required for Stage 2 measures.

But wait, CMS is still clarifying its Stage 2 measures via FAQs. Can’t expect a vendor to build software to specifications that weren’t explicitly defined, or to sign a contract that requires adherence to unknown criteria.

So, what COULD CMS and the ONC do about it? How about finalizing your requirements BEFORE issuing measures and certification criteria? Since that ship’s already sailed, change the CEHRT certification process.

1. Require vendors to submit heuristics on both initial implementation and upgrades, indicating the typical timeline from kick-off to go-live, number of internal and external resources (i.e., third-party systems integrators), and cost.
2. Require vendors to submit customer-base profile detailing known customers planning to implement and/or upgrade within calendar year. AND require implementation/upgrade planning to incorporate 3 months of QA time post-implementation/upgrade, prior to go-live with real patients.
3. Require vendors to submit human resource strategy, and hiring and training program explicitly defined to support the customer-base profile submitted, with the typical timeframes and project resource/cost profiles submitted.
4. Require vendor products to be self-contained to achieve certification – meaning, no additional third-party purchase (software or professional services) would be necessary in order to implement and/or upgrade to the certified version and have all CMS-required functionality.
5. Require vendor products to prove the CEHRT-baseline functionality is available as configurable OOTB, not only available via customization. SHOW ME THE C-CDA, with all required data elements populated via workflow in the UI, not via some developer on the back-end in a carefully-orchestrated test patient demo script.
6. Require vendor products adhere to an SLA for max number of clicks required to execute the task. It is not Meaningful Use if it’s prohibitively challenging to access and use in a clinical setting.

Finally, CMS could redefine the incentive program parameters to include scenarios like mine. Despite the heroic efforts being made across the enterprise, this IDN is not likely to make it, with the fault squarely on the CEHRT vendors’ inability to deliver fully-functional products in a timely manner with skilled resources available to support the installation, configuration, and deployment. Morale will significantly decline, next year’s budget will be short the $MM that was slated for further health IT improvements, and the likelihood that it will continue with Stage 3 becomes negligible. Vendor lawsuits may ensue, and the incentive dollar targets may be recouped, but the cost incurred by the organization, its clinicians, and its patients is irrecoverable.

Consider applying the hardship exemption deadline extension to the incentive program participants.

March 5, 2014 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a healthcare IT consultant and a hardcore data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, who fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

Meaningful Use Playbook 2014: Overcoming Adversity – Breakaway Thinking

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The following is a guest blog post by Carrie Yasemin Paykoc, Senior Instructional Designer at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
broncos
I apologize in advance, but I am still mourning the Super Bowl loss of the Denver Broncos. I can’t stop replaying each moment and thinking of alternative scenarios. What if Peyton Manning utilized a quick huddle instead of audibles and hand-signals? What if Denver’s defense had better protected Peyton? What if the Broncos had scored more than eight points?

Regardless of the what-ifs and wounds resulting from the loss, the team has to step up and prepare for the next season, if they want to finish at the top. In the healthcare world, providers must also change their playbook and approach, if they wish to capitalize on the next phase of Meaningful Use.

For the past year, providers have been scrambling to select, implement or optimize a new electronic health record system to meet federal requirements for Meaningful Use Stage 1. Adding to providers’ challenges is the evolving nature of the rules for achieving meaningful use incentives; federal agency Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is constantly updating the Meaningful Use Playbook. Similar to football players at the end of the season, providers are tired and wounded. However, they must be aware of and prepare to take on the new requirements for 2014. Otherwise, they risk future penalties and foregoing funds. To help healthcare providers prepare for this new season, here is a summary of changes taking effect this year.

  • Three-month reporting period
    All providers are now required, regardless of their stage of meaningful use, to demonstrate meaningful use for a three-month EHR reporting period. Medicare providers may elect to report clinical quality measures (CQM) for the entire year or select an optional, three-month reporting period for CQMs that is identical to their meaningful use reporting.
  • Exclusions and vital sign objectives
    All eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals are now responsible for adhering to the latest changes in Meaningful Use Stage 1. This includes new requirements for electing exclusions toward menu objectives, age limits for recording and charting changes to vital signs, and new exclusions toward reporting height, weight and blood pressure.
  • View, download and transmit all health information or admissions online
    To better align with the new capabilities of certified EHR technology, CMS is replacing Meaningful Use Stage 1 objectives for accessing information online with the capacity to view, download and transmit this information.
  • Reporting of clinical quality measures
    All providers, regardless of their stage of meaningful use, must report on clinical quality measures to CMS. Eligible hospitals must report 16 of the 29 CQMs and eligible providers must report 9 of the 64 CQMs.(Source)

For providers making the leap to Stage 2 of meaningful use, this is only the beginning. Not only must they abide to the changes mentioned above, but they also need to plan and execute a strategy for integrating diverse IT systems and engaging patients. Neither are simple tasks. However, just as I believe that Peyton can shake this last performance and finish strong next year, I believe in the resiliency of providers too. With the right leadership and planning, they will take patient care to the next level.

Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!
Carrie Yasemin Paykoc
Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

February 19, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

A Hospital Perspective on Meaningful Use from Encore Health Resources

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The following is a guest blog post by Karen Knecht in response to the question I posed in my “State of the Meaningful Use” call to action.

If MU were gone (ie. no more EHR incentive money or penalties), which parts of MU would you remove from your EHR immediately and which parts would you keep?

Karen Knecht
Karen Knecht
Chief Innovation Officer at Encore Health Resources

It’s an interesting question you’ve posed on MU, and I think you have generated some great discussion on this topic, such as last week’s response by Dr. Sherling from the perspective of an eligible provider.

My colleagues and I would like to provide an eligible hospital perspective.  The industry is now three-plus years down the path of implementing “certified EHRs.”  There was a need to kick-start the digitization of healthcare in this country and create a common infrastructure to drive change, and MU has done that.  For example, establishing standards for data capture is critical for unified reporting and analysis.  Would the industry establish and adopt these standards without a program like MU?

But working with many large healthcare organizations representing several hundred individual hospitals in their MU programs, there are clearly many lessons learned and opportunities to improve for the future, even if the MU program were to go away.

Overall, there are no MU objectives that we would discount as having no value.  However, there are some that have served their time and others that are ahead of their time.

For the parts to continue, we see a high level of value in the CPOE, Barcoded Medication Administration, Medication Reconciliation and Clinical Decision Support objectives, as they are making tangible contributions to patient care.  However, we would recommend timeline delay due to additional capital outlay as well as complexity of workflow.  This would give more time for deeper and broader adoption.

For the parts to no longer measure in the same way, we would start by simplifying and removing the objectives that are topped out: the ones that are already hardwired in most organizations such as Vital Signs, Demographics, and Smoking Status.  This is no different than the current process for removing quality measures from reporting requirements once they have been well adopted — and HITPC is in agreement about this.  In their meeting last week where they discussed proposed Stage 3 measures, they were saying much the same thing.  Even if you stop measuring these things explicitly, they will continue to be electronically documented.

Second, we could see removing objectives that are now standard for “certified” EHRs.  For example, the time and effort to document the Drug Formulary, Drug-Drug, and Drug-Allergy checking functionality, for the sole purpose of meeting the MU objective, is not well spent.  Another example is the lab results stored as discrete values, which are part and parcel of any lab system in existence.

Other objectives that are causing great concern among many hospitals are the ones dealing with providing and exchanging information electronically.  It would be helpful to reconsider the expectations for these objectives, since many are finding out that implementing a patient portal without a sound patient engagement strategy is not going to be enough to ensure that 5% of patients will actually access their records.  Hospitals should have a portal and secure messaging capability, but it doesn’t seem realistic to put thresholds on patient utilization.  As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

Additionally, the requirement for Direct exchange to transmit summary of care is cumbersome and actually a step backwards for those entities who are part of an HIE and are currently exchanging data among members.  For most others, it is really only practical to implement with a physician ambulatory partner.  The sad fact is that nursing homes, SNF’s, and other entities where hospitals commonly transfer patients are not included in the EHR incentive program and do not have the technology necessary to participate in a direct exchange in a meaningful way.

And finally, we think all aspects of electronic quality measures should be rethought.  We love the idea of calculating these measures electronically, but they need to be appropriately validated and re-addressed in the context of the poor data collection that is occurring.  Perhaps CMS should consider another voluntary incentive program for facilities that have fully implemented all their clinical documentation.  Given the change that is proposed to the physician quality reporting programs as a result of the SGR fix, perhaps a similar refinement of the IQR and VBP programs along with MU should be considered.

See other responses to this question here and please reach out to us if you’re interested in providing a response to the question.

February 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Did Meaningful Use Try to Do Too Much?

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When I was reading Michael Brozino’s post on EMR and EHR about the Value of Meaningful Use, I was hooked in by his comment that meaningful use standards only went halfway. I’m not sure if this was the intent of his comment, but I couldn’t help but sick back and consider if meaningful use missed the mark because it only went half way.

When I think about all of the various features of meaningful use, it really feels to me like ONC and CMS tried to bite off more than they could chew. They tried to be all things to everyone and they ended up being nothing to no one. Ok, that’s not perfectly correct, but is likely pretty close.

Think about all of the meaningful use measures. Which ones go deep enough to really have a deep and lasting impact on healthcare? By having so many measures, they had to water them all down so it wasn’t too much for an organization to adopt. I’m afraid these watered down measures and standards render meaningful use generally meaningless.

Certainly the EHR incentive money has stimulated EHR adoption. However, could this EHR adoption have had even more impact if it would have just focused on two or three major areas instead of dozens of measures with good intentions but little impact?

In many ways, this is just a variation on my wish that EHR incentive money would have focused on EHR interoeprability. As meaningful use stands today, we’ve made steps towards interoperability, but we’re still not there. Could we have achieved interoperability of health records if it had been our sole focus? Instead, we’re collecting smoking status and vital signs which get stored in an EHR and never used by anyone outside of that EHR (and some would argue rarely inside of the EHR).

The good news is we could remedy this situation. ONC and CMS have something called meaningful use stage 3. How amazing would it be if they essentially through out the previous stages and built MU stage 3 on 2-3 major goals? The foundation is there for MU stage 3 to have an enormous impact for good on healthcare, but I don’t think it will have that impact if we keep down the path we’re currently on.

Yes, I realize that a change like this won’t be easy. Yes, I realize that this means that someone’s pet project (or should I say pet measure) is going to get cut. However, wouldn’t we rather have 2-3 really powerful, healthcare changing things implemented than 24 measures that have no little lasting impact? I know I would.

Side Note: Think how we could simplify EHR Certification if there were only 2-3 measures.

February 12, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.