Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and HIPAA for FREE!!

Meaningful Use EHR Adoption Charts – EHR Market Analysis

Posted on June 12, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

ONC continues to push out more data when it comes to meaningful use, EHR adoption, RECs, and related areas. As a data addict, I could spend forever looking through and analyzing this data. So, I’ll probably do a series of posts across Healthcare Scene over the next couple weeks looking at the charts and data that ONC has made public about meaningful use and EHR adoption. I know some of the charts have been out for a while, but the analysis should still prove useful.

If you want to join in on the analysis of this data, I welcome you in the comments of each post. Plus, if you want to find your own nuggets to share, I’d suggest starting with their quick stats and dashboards pages.

First up in our look at the ONC EHR data is a look at the meaningful use participation chart for ambulatory EHR vendors (eligible providers if you prefer):
Ambulatory Practice EHR Adoption - Meaningful Use Participation
The most important part of this chart to me is that the two largest bars on the chart. The largest bar is the 749 “Other EHR Vendors” category at the bottom of the chart. It’s easy to miss this bar, but I believe it’s extremely important to note how big the long tail is when it comes to ambulatory EHR adoption. I’ve often said that it doesn’t take that many doctors to make yourself a decent EHR business. This chart illustrates how many EHR vendors are still in the game. There are only 3 EHR vendors that have over 40,000 providers. I know that many think that EHR vendor consolidation is bound to happen. Some certainly will, but I don’t see it happening at a massive scale in the ambulatory EHR world.

The second largest bar on the chart is the Epic EHR adoption. What’s important about this bar is that this totally represents that hospital owned ambulatory EHR adoption. Epic does not and will not sell Epic directly to a small ambulatory provider. All of these “eligible providers” for Epic are in hospital systems. I take away two important things from this. First, we see in plain sight how big the roll up of ambulatory practices is by hospitals. Second, this chart illustrates the opportunity that Cerner and Meditech have available to them. As you’ll see in the next chart, Cerner and Meditech have more hospital installs than Epic, but they’re much farther down on the ambulatory side. A look at history explains why they’ve had trouble penetrating the ambulatory market, but I believe it’s a huge opportunity for them going forward.

I’ll be interested to see how this chart continues to evolve over time. Will we doctors leaving hospitals to go back on their own shift the balance of power? Will we see massive EHR consolidation? I also can’t help but note that Mitochon Systems Inc shows up on the list and they don’t even sell an EHR to doctors directly any more. I assume this must be their white label business? I’ll have to follow up with them to get an update on their business.

Now let’s take a look at the chart for Hospital EHR vendors participating in the EHR incentive programs:
Hospital EHR Adoption - Meaningful Use Participation
This chart illustrates really well the 3 horse hospital EHR race which we’ve all known for a while. Although, given healthcare IT’s love affair with Epic (kind of like Apple in the IT world), I think some will be a bit surprised that Cerner and MEDITECH are both listed ahead of Epic. If you looked only at large hospital systems, I think the chart would look very different though.

It’s worth also mentioning the other horses in the race: McKesson, CPSI, MEDHOST, Healthland and Allscripts. They’ve all carved out their niche in the hospital space. We’ll see if they can continue to defend their territory. Hospital EHR switching is not easy.

My favorite observation from this chart versus the ambulatory chart is how well it illustrates the importance of secondary EHR vendors (the brownish gold color) in hospitals. I’ll never forget when Alan Portela of Airstrip told me that the EHR world will be a heterogenous environment. That absolutely resonated with me and this chart proves out what he said. Health systems are going to have multiple EHR vendors even if some EHR vendors would like it to be otherwise.

If you want to look at the potential disruptors in the world of EHR, I’d take a look at these secondary EHR vendors. Their foothold in hospitals provides them a really great opportunity to disrupt the status quo as we know it. Most of them won’t, but they’re all sitting on an opportunity. I’d start with the companies that make up the “Other Vendors” brownish gold bar. I bet there are some really interesting ones in that list.

I’d love to hear your observations from these charts in the comments. Anything I missed? Do you disagree with my observations? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Are We Chasing the Carrot or Afraid of the Stick?

Posted on May 29, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The other day SGC asked in my hospital EHR adoption chart post: “If there were no penalties for non-EHR adoption, what would that chart look like?”

For those that are too lazy to click over to that post to see the chart, it basically shows hospital EHR adoption being massively accelerated thanks to the government EHR incentive program. In fact, we’re approaching full adoption of EHR in the hospital space (worth noting is that the ambulatory provider space is lagging far behind that adoption). SGC asks the question about whether that adoption would have occurred without the penalties.

My personal experience is that most organizations appreciate the EHR incentive money and plan that in as part of their budgeting for an EHR, but that they were really much more motivated by the EHR penalties that would accrue if they didn’t adopt an EHR. So, I’d say that people are more afraid of the stick than they are motivated by the carrot.

This is probably more so the case because the penalties are going to exist in perpetuity. I think most hospital organizations believe (and I think rightly so) that the EHR penalties for not using an EHR are not going to stop. In fact, they could get much worse. Not to mention, other payers might start implementing similar penalties for non-EHR use as well.

What’s been your experience? Are the carrot or the stick more motivating to healthcare organizations?

Another related question would be, “If there had been no EHR incentive or penalties, what would the EHR adoption chart look like today?” That’s a topic for another blog post.

Great Meaningful Use and Eligible Providers Chat

Posted on April 29, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently received an email from a regular reader, Dr. Mike, who owns a single specialty ortho group. In the email Dr. Mike talks about the challenges that Eligible Providers (EPs) are facing with meaningful use stage 2. He describes the story as falling on “deaf ears” at CMS and ONC. He also offered these stats on meaningful use to illustrate his case that meaningful use is a failure:

Only 38,472 have attested to Stage 2, My guess is that only about half actually did Stage 2 as there was the Stage 1 reprieve. Even so, that is only 18% of EPs have successfully attested which is an complete failure of MU.

Then, he asked me an important question:

Someone ask CMS and ONC the tough questions please…Now what are they going to do?

In response to him, I told him that I’d been talking about the challenge that meaningful use is for doctors for quite a while. However, I also told him that most hospitals are participating in meaningful use, so “we’ll see how that plays out.” What I meant is that in the meaningful use program we now have one group (EPs) that are not doing so well with meaningful use and their hospital counterparts that are relying on the millions in EHR incentive money (not to mention avoiding the penalties).

Then I answered his important question, “I can tell you what ONC and CMS are going to do. Spin It!”

Of course, Dr. Mike is great at engaging in conversation so he offered this reply:

1. Elizabeth Myers and the rest of CMS and ONC really did try to spin every bad number and “we cannot assess the numbers yet” was a constant theme.
2. I totally agree they will continue to try to spin the numbers or ignore them as long as possible. I’m not sure why they cannot face the truth about MU.
3. The 36K that did MU 2 are the cream of the crop. I would even argue that the other 82% are the cream also as they were the early adopters and gung ho about MU. The fact that 82% of the over achieving EPs have skipped out on MU 2 is a travesty. There is NO chance ONC and CMS is going to pull in the lagging EPs.
4. If you don’t know already, I own a single specialty Ortho group and we skipped MU completely after we saw the MU 2 rules. Proposed MU 3 just help us box it up and bury it.

I have no idea why ONC and CMS cannot let go of the program, let EHR vendors actually work with EPs for all the thing we are missing from our IT (usability, safety, security, efficiency). Right now we cannot do anything to customize our workflow or improve our experience as it will potentially decertify the EHR for MU. MU sucks all the air out of the room. EHRs right now are a billing and click box for MU system with a marginal clinical system slapped on…

Its about time ONC lets the market do its thing, instead of this constant objective, measures, menu, core, numerators, denominators, attesting, auditing disaster they created.

Once EPs leave the program, they are not coming back. So this should be a big deal for ONC and CMS.

I haven’t gone in and fact checked his numbers (I’d love to hear if you have different numbers), but the emotion in his comments is something I’ve heard from many providers. In fact, I’ve heard it from many EHR vendors. They’re tired of coding their EHR software to the test and the government regulations as well. They want to do more innovative things, but the government regulations are stifling their ability to do it. Resources only go so far.

I think we’re in the early days of provider discontent with meaningful use. However, it’s starting to boil. I’ll be interested to see what happens when it boils over. I’m predicting that will happen once many of these doctors start seeing the penalties hit their pocketbooks.

The Healthcare Penalties Are Coming!!

Posted on April 3, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We all know about the Meaningful Use penalties. The PQRS penalties. The Value Based Modifier penalties. Individually, they’d all be annoying, but I don’t think most healthcare organizations have understood what these penalties will be in aggregate.

This hit home to me when I was reading a smartly titled post by Jim Tate called “What you don’t do in 2015 will cause 9% CMS penalties in 2017” Here’s how he describes the penalties that are in store for healthcare:

MU: Failing to achieve MU in 2014 will bring a 2% penalty beginning in 2016 with a 1% annual increase up to 5%.

Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS): Non-participation brings a Medicare reimbursement reduction of 2.0% in 2016 based on 2014 data.

Value-Based Modifier(VBM): The VBM, which many providers are not aware of, is linked to PQRS. Beginning in 2016, eligible providers (EPs) in groups with 10 or more EPs will be subject to a penalty based on performance. In 2017, this will include all EPs, not just those in larger groups.

Taken together, this adds up to a 9% penalty in 2017 based on 2015 participation.
To avoid these penalties, immediately assess your current participation in the MU, PQRS, and VBM programs. If you are not on track you must take steps to mitigate your risk as soon as possible.

Risk mitigation is the right way to describe it. As I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t think that many providers are planning ahead to avoid these penalties. I also don’t think they realize the long term consequences of the choices they make today.

Thanks Jim for waking us up to the reality.

The Future Of…Patient Engagement

Posted on March 19, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.

Healthcare has a major challenge when it comes to the term “Patient Engagement.” $36 billion of government money and something called meaningful use has corrupted the word Patient Engagement. While meaningful use requires “5% patient engagement”, that’s a far cry from actually engaging with patients. Anyone that’s attested to meaningful use knows what I mean.

As we move past meaningful use, what then will patient engagement actually look like?

When I start to think about the future of patient engagement, I’m taken back to my experience with a new primary care provider that’s trying to Restore Humanity to Healthcare (see Restore Humanity to Healthcare part 2 as well). In this case, I’m exploring the idea of unlimited primary care along with a primary care team that includes a doctor, but also includes a wellness coordinator that’s interested in my wellness and not just my presenting problem.

Once you take the payment portion out of primary care, it dramatically changes the equation for me. Gone are the fears of going to the doctor because you don’t want to pay the co-pay. Gone are the days where a doctor needs to see you in the office in order to be able to make money from the visit. With unlimited primary care, an email, phone call or text message that solves the problem is a great solution for the doctor and the patient.

Of course, this model of primary care is only one example of the shift that’s going to drive us to patient engagement. ACOs and value based care models are going to require a much deeper relationship between doctors and patients. Trust me that 5% patient engagement through an online portal isn’t going to be enough in these new models.

Plus, these new models are going to really convert our current sick care system into a true healthcare system. I like to call this new model “Treating Healthy Patients.” Quite frankly we’re not ready for this change right now, but in the future we’ll have to adapt. The biggest change is going to be in how we define “patient” and “healthy.”

The wave of connected medical devices and innovation are going to completely reframe how we look at health. Instead of describing ourselves as healthy, the data will tell us that we’re all sick. We’re just at different points in the continuum of sickness.

In the future, patient engagement will be the key to treating each of us individually. The symptoms will change from coughing and vomiting to 85% risk for diabetes and 76% risk for a heart attack. We thought we had patient compliance issues when someone is coughing and vomiting (ie. something they want to fix). Now imagine patient compliance challenges when the patient isn’t feeling any pain, but they need to change something in order to avoid some major health problem.

I think this describes perfectly why we’re entering one of the most challenging times in healthcare. It’s a dramatic shift in how we think about healthcare and has a new set of more challenging problems that we’ve never solved. One of the keys to solving these new challenges is patient engagement.

An EHR Focused On Customer Requests, Not MU

Posted on February 4, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I love taking email exchanges I have with practicing doctors and making their comments into posts. This is one of those cases. The following is a quote from an email I got from a physician friend of mine about his EHR (EHR name removed):

Every time we turn around these days our EHR vendor is adding some new update. Sometimes the updates change the format of how the system appears and functions, sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately, the people who are still chasing after all the crazy government hoops to jump through and those who are not are all forced to deal with the same EHR software system. I really wish there was a separate system with no crazy upgrades that would function the same way that the system did two years ago. That was a much simpler and more commonsensical system. It’s a really sad case of the government says jump and software systems say how high?

I believe this physician has stopped taking Medicare patients and has happily avoided meaningful use. However, as the above comments illustrate, he hasn’t avoided a lot of the impact that meaningful use has had on the design of his EHR system. Plus, that doesn’t even count all the great new features that this doctor could have gotten from his EHR if they weren’t busy turning on all the MU requirements including the MU reporting and tracking.

His comments about wanting a system that isn’t influenced by MU requirements is quite interesting since Pri-Med (the company that acquired Amazing Charts) has announced an EHR product called InLight EHR that’s not certified and doesn’t do MU. The press release says the EHR is designed for Direct Primary Care. This is a really interesting move by them, and my doctor friend above illustrates why an EHR software that’s not MU certified could work.

One challenge to this idea is that a lot of doctors can’t shun Medicare and meaningful use. So, they’ll need to continue with the EHR that are still chasing the government carrot and avoiding the stick. We’ll see how these different EHR markets evolve.

Meaningful Use Audit Advice

Posted on January 30, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In response to my post on Meaningful Use Audits and the Inconsistent Appeals Process, Todd Searls. Executive Director at Wide River LLC, offered this interesting meaningful use audit advice on LinkedIn:

We’ve assisted numerous clinics and hospitals through their audits, and you’re absolutely correct John. Those clinics that have the people and processes already in place, this ends up (most of the time), being a non -issue, just time consuming. However, we have clients that have undergone significant changes since 2011 and now that they are being audited, the changes are coming back to haunt them since tracking MU documentation through the changes may not have been the highest priority.

Even those clinics that have the right documentation are now finding that they shouldn’t just mail the documents in bulk to the auditors unless they’ve spent time creating a good summary document which clearly defines each and every appendix document being sent. Case in point, we had one clinic call us to help them with their appeal for a failed audit. When we engaged we spent a few hours trying to determine why they failed the audit since the documents they had on file to support their attestation were excellent. Then we reviewed how they sent them in (in just one mass mailing with no cover letter or explanation beyond a title for each document (ie, In Reference to Measure 2)).

Once we created a clear cover letter and resubmitted, they were notified very quickly that their appeal was successful. The clinic had mixed feelings – great that they passed, but unhappy about having to ‘mind-read’ the preferred format that the auditor was looking for. Right or wrong, many clinics are in the same place – frustrated with the process.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys an audit. However, an audit can at least be bearable if it’s clear what’s expected in the audit. I think we’re going to have a lot more stories about meaningful use audits coming down the pipe. Hopefully Todd’s advice helps some who run into a meaningful use audit.

CMS Listens to Those Calling for a 90 Day Meaningful Use Reporting Period

Posted on January 29, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I think that most of us in the industry figured this was just a matter of time, but it’s nice that we were right and CMS is working to modify the requirements and reporting periods for meaningful use. I imagine they heard all the many voices that were calling for a change to meaningful use stage 2 and it’s just taken them this long to work through the government process to make it a reality.

Before I act like this change is already in place, CMS was very specific in the wording of their announcement about their “intent to modify requirements for meaningful use” and their “intent to engage in rulemaking” in order to make these “intended” changes. Basically they’re saying that they can just change the rules. They have to go through the rule making process for these changes to go into effect. That said, I don’t think anyone doubts that this will make it through the rule making process.

Here’s the modifications that they’re proposing:

  1. Shortening the 2015 reporting period to 90 days to address provider concerns about their ability to fully deploy 2014 Edition software
  2. Realigning hospital reporting periods to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition software into their workflows and to better align with other quality programs
  3. Modifying other aspects of the programs to match long-term goals, reduce complexity, and lessen providers’ reporting burden

They also added this interesting clarification and information about the meaningful use stage 3 proposed rule:

To clarify, we are working on multiple tracks right now to realign the program to reflect the progress toward program goals and be responsive to stakeholder input. Today’s announcement that we intend to pursue the changes to meaningful use beginning in 2015 through rulemaking, is separate from the forthcoming Stage 3 proposed rule that is expected to be released by early March. CMS intends to limit the scope of the Stage 3 proposed rule to the requirements and criteria for meaningful use in 2017 and subsequent years.

I think everyone will welcome a dramatic simplification of the meaningful use program. The above 3 changes will be welcome by everyone I know.

In the email announcement for this, they provided an explanation for why they’re doing these changes:

These proposed changes reflect the Department of Health and Human Services’ commitment to creating a health information technology infrastructure that:

  • Elevates patient-centered care
  • Improves health outcomes
  • Supports the providers who care for patients

Personally, I think they saw the writing on the wall and it wasn’t pretty. Many organizations were going to opt out of meaningful use stage 2. These changes were needed and necessary for many organizations to continue participating in meaningful use. They believe meaningful use will elevate patient-centered care, improve health outcomes, and support the providers who care for patients. I’m glad they finally chose to start the rulemaking process to make the changes. I think many that started meaningful use can still benefit from the rest of the incentive money and will be even happier to avoid the penalties.

Meaningful Use Created A Big Need for Certified MAs

Posted on December 26, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the changes that as best I can tell has come from meaningful use (if there are other forces at play, I’d love to hear them) is the push to use certified MAs. A whole cottage industry has sprung up around certifying MAs. In fact, I even know some EHR vendors who are certifying MAs because it’s such an important need.

Now when I say need, I use that word lightly. It’s a need because meaningful use requires that many of the MAs be certified in order for that MA to participate in many aspects of the meaningful use program. The EHR vendors that are doing it likely don’t want to be in this business at all. However, for their customers to be successful with meaningful use, they need their MAs to be certified.

Certainly there are ways for a doctor to attest to meaningful use without using certified MAs. For example, if you use RNs, then their RN certification is sufficient to meet the needs of meaningful use. Plus, you can have MAs do some tasks in the office that aren’t impacted by meaningful use. However, if you’re using an MA in your office and want to attest to meaningful use, you probably need to have that MA certified.

I’ll admit that I’m not an expert on the MA certification, but I can’t imagine that this new MA certification improves the quality of care that a patient receives in the office. I’d love to be proven wrong on this. Does your office provide better patient care because you know have a group of certified MAs as opposed to non-certified MAs? I just don’t see a short certification like the one that’s required making a huge difference.

Chalk this up to one more layer of bureaucracy and hoop jumping that’s required for a clinic. When will we start really focusing on the value of something? Is there a value to these certified MAs that I’m missing? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

A Meaningful Use Update

Posted on November 6, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
We’re deep in the heart of meaningful use. Every organization has likely evaluated their participation in meaningful use and knows their path forward. While the meaningful use program is quite mature, the regulations are still shifting as various organization push forward their agendas. It’s important to keep an eye on these shifts so you can plan appropriately for your organization. Here are three meaningful use items you should keep an eye on since they could have a significant impact on your clinic:

Flex-IT Act – For those not familiar with this act, it would change the attestation period for meaningful use stage 2 from 365 days to only 90 days. This act is being backed by some very strong healthcare organizations including a call from the AMA, CHIME, HIMSS, and MGMA to make this change. As is noted by these organizations, very few hospitals have attested to meaningful use stage 2 and only 2 percent of eligible providers have attested to meaningful use stage 2 so far (they do have until the end of February).

If the meaningful use stage 2 numbers continue on this trend, CMS will need to do something or risk having the program be labeled a failure. It’s hard to predict what will happen (or not happen) in Washington, but the pressure to change the meaningful use stage 2 reporting periods to 90 days is growing. Poor meaningful use stage 2 attestation numbers could very well push this issue over the edge.

EHR Penalty Hardship Exemption – In case you missed it, CMS reopened the meaningful use hardship exception period. Originally you had to file for a meaningful use hardship exception by July 1, 2014, but you now have until November 30, 2014 to apply for an exception. This is a big deal for those who likely didn’t know they’d need an exception for meaningful use.

While this exception is related to the EHR certification flexibility (ie. your EHR vendor software isn’t ready for you to implement and attest), many have wondered if we won’t see more ways for organizations to avoid the coming meaningful use penalties. These prognosticators suggest that if meaningful use stage 2 numbers continue to be as awful as what’s described above, it’s possible that the government will provide some relief from the meaningful use penalties. As of now, the meaningful use penalties are coming, so you better be prepared.

AMA’s Meaningful Use Letter – The AMA has a strong political voice in Washington and they’ve recently decided to tackle meaningful use head on. They’ve put their efforts into a Meaningful Use Blueprint that calls for more flexibility in the meaningful use program. Without going into all the line by line details, the AMA is asking CMS to:

  • Adopt a More Flexible Approach to Meaningful Use and move away from the current All or Nothing approach to Meaningful Use
  • Align the quality measures, reporting burden and overlapping penalties that exist across programs (Meaningful Use, PQRS, Value Based Reimbursement, etc)
  • Focus Meaningful Use and EHR certification on key areas like Interoperability

None of these issues have been put into action by CMS or ONC yet, but I believe this blueprint provides the framework for the AMA’s lobbying efforts. Therefore, it’s a strong indicator of where the meaningful use program might be going. I expect the majority of these suggestions would be welcome by doctors unless they’ve already gone off the meaningful use deep end and given up on meaningful use altogether. However, you don’t want to be caught flat footed if and when changes to the meaningful use program occur.

Security Risk Assessment
This is not really a change to meaningful use, but a reminder that many organizations have not paid appropriate attention to the HIPAA security risk assessment which is required as part of meaningful use. Far too many organizations check this check box during their meaningful use attestation without actually doing a proper security risk assessment. This is coming back to haunt many organizations during their meaningful use audit.

In case you missed it, you might want to start with the Security Risk Analysis Myths and Facts that EMR and HIPAA posted previously. It covers such topics as security risk analysis’ being optional (they’re not) and your installed certified EHR takes care of your risk analysis (more is required). This CMS FAQ offers more details on what needs to be done to meet this meaningful use requirement. For example, you need to do a security risk analysis ever year you attest to meaningful use. Make sure you take the time to do an appropriate risk assessment of your organization.

What other meaningful use trends and changes do you see on the horizon? What other things should we be considering as we plan our meaningful use future?

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.