The Meaningful Use Decision – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on October 10, 2011 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.

What else could be written about meaningful use that hasn’t already been said? Really. I’ve been thinking this over since I think we’ve been writing about the EHR incentive money and meaningful use for almost two years now.

I still remember the first time I read about the government planning to give out incentive money for those who adopt an EMR. Some thought that they’d just give out the money to doctors who adopt an EHR kind of like they did for those who purchased a home. I guess the government assumes that when you purchase a home you’re going to use it, but when you purchase an EHR that’s not always the case. So, meaningful use was born.

One of my biggest problems with meaningful use has always been its conflict with certified EHR. I’ll never understand why the government wants to certify EHR software (ie. more expense) when they could have just built the requirements of meaningful use so that the only way for a user to meet the requirements is by using an EHR software that performed the functions required. I guess I can partially see some security checks that could be done in an EHR certification that wouldn’t show in meaningful use, but does anyone really think that EHR software is much more secure thanks to EHR certification?

Of course, much of this is water under a bridge. We have meaningful use and certified EHR and there’s no going back now.

At this point, I wonder how many doctors are still undecided on meaningful use and EHR software. Considering all the discussion and chatter, I feel like most doctors have made the decision on the subject. They’re either going to use an EHR or not. I guess there might b e a few doctors that want to use an EHR, but are waiting for the right one. Certainly there are many doctors that know that EHR is the future, but they just haven’t committed the time to evaluating the various EHR software and deciding which one is best for their office.

My gut feeling tells me that the EHR incentive money wasn’t enough for many of them to finally get down to the business of selecting and implementing an EHR. I imagine many of them are waiting and hoping for a clear EHR market leader to emerge. I’m sorry to inform them that I don’t think that’s going to happen for another 2-3 years at least. Plus, I still think we might have market leaders in each medical specialty.

I’ve heard some argue that it’s the future meaningful use stages that have people scared to implement an EHR. Basically, they believe that meaningful use stage 1 is reasonable, but they think that meaningful use stage 2 & 3 will be much harder and not worth the effort. Kind of reminds me of the arguments that businesses have made about the uncertainty of economic policy causing them not to “move” on more investments. I think many doctors are uncertain about the EHR stimulus money, future stages of meaningful use, and how private insurance companies may react in the future. This uncertainty does cause issues for their ability to plan.

One thing I think the EHR industry could do to provide more comfort to doctors is to provide doctors that adopt your EHR a pathway to leave your EHR if you don’t meet their expectations. Why vendors try to lock someone into their EHR that hates it is beyond me. Ok, I get the short term gain and why you hate losing customers. However, by locking them into a product they don’t like you’re creating an eternal enemy to your product and believe me when I say that doctors talk. Plus, if you have doctors that want to leave because your product doesn’t meet their expectations, then you have a bigger issue on your hands. Sure one or two that have work flows that don’t match your product, fine. A mass exodus from your product because you chose to make it easy for them to leave means you should probably fold up shop anyway or fix the reasons why they want to leave.

Unfortunately, the large EHR vendors won’t really care at all. They’re all about lock in whether you like it or not. I hope doctors start to kick against this and support EHR vendors that provide pathways out of their product. I’d still be happy to support a movement to “liberate” EHR data. Any EHR vendors want to join?

This brings us back to meaningful use. It’s too bad the meaningful use didn’t require practical elements that would make a lot of sense for government to institute. For example…
-Require EHR vendors to create an easy export of all patient data
-Require EHR vendors to communicate with other EHR vendors
-Require EHR vendors to send public health data (they’ve kind of done this)

I’m sure there are more, but that’s a good start.

Now the most interesting thing is going to be how this first wave of meaningful use doctors react to the EHR software they’ve chosen. Unfortunately, I’ve really only seen meaningful use doctors who’ve had an EHR software well before the term meaningful use was coined. If you are a doctor who recently implemented an EHR post meaningful use, I’d love to hear from you so we can tell your story.