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Will Meaningful Use Be Used by Payers?

Posted on May 15, 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.

I was on a call recently with someone who started to state that it was inevitable that the payers would start requiring doctors be meaningful users of a certified EHR. I wouldn’t say that it’s 100% sure that payers won’t adopt meaningful use, but I think it’s far from a forgone conclusion that they’ll jump on the meaningful use bandwagon as well.

Before I get into some of the various rationale for why they will or won’t, I’d love to see what you think in the poll embedded beloww:

Those who think that payers will start requiring meaningful use if you want the highest reimbursement rate usually point to the fact that the payers have often followed whatever Medicare is doing. This is true and so it is possible that they’ll piggyback the meaningful use train.

Those who say they won’t do it will say that meaningful use doesn’t really align with what the payers want to accomplish. There are elements that interest them, but it goes too far in many areas.

I’d say that most payers will probably not hop on the meaningful use bandwagon. However, I’m sure that they’ll let Medicare take the lumps while they sit back and watch how doctors react to meaningful use. If a large portion of doctors opt out of meaningful use, then I can’t imagine payers hopping on that train and making all of those doctors angry. I see payers just sitting back and watching how MU plays out before making any firm decisions.

In the end, I think payers will adopt something that may include some elements of MU that align with their business interests. I’ll just be very surprised if they just take MU on in its current state.

What do you think?

Final EHR Certification Bodies – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on July 23, 2012 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 seems mostly like a formality, but NIST has published the list of Accredited Testing Laboratories (ATLs), that are qualified to test EHR technology under the Permanent EHR Certification Program. You might remember that the permanent EHR certification program was delayed.

Here are the list of companies that are part of the final EHR certification bodies:

  • Drummond Group
  • Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT)
  • ICSA Laboratories, Inc.
  • InfoGard Laboratories, Inc.
  • SLI Global Solutions

All of them are familiar names and ones that have been doing work with EHR certification the whole time. I think this is generally good for consistency of EHR certification. Can you imagine if you’d certified your EHR using one of the bodies and then that body didn’t get approved for the permanent EHR certification. Sure, the criteria are still the same, but there’s some differences in the processes each EHR certification body uses.

As most of you know, I’ve been a long opponent to EHR certification. I think it’s pointless and provides no value to physicians. However, someone in Washington put it in the HITECH legislation, so we’re stuck with the idea of a certified EHR. The good thing is that ONC and CMS have basically rendered it meaningless since every EHR vendor has basically become a certified EHR or will be soon. Of course, that also illustrates how pointless the EHR certification really is.

All in all, the EHR certification bodies are going to be around for a number of years more. I’m not sure if they’ll survive post HITECH. I just wish they were providing something “meaningful” (pun intended.

OpenEMR Passes HITECH EHR Certification

Posted on August 20, 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.

LinuxMedNews just posted the announcement that OpenEMR is now a certified EHR. Here’s the quote from their announcement:

It’s official! OpenEMR has passed all ONC certification tests as a fully qualified emr that can be used to attest for incentive moneys. The official posting: http://onc-chpl.force.com/ehrcert/EHRProductDetail?id=a0X30000003mNwTEAU&retURL= appeared on the website 2011/08/19. Congratulations to all involved! OpenEMR 4.1 should be ready for download in a few weeks.

This is a really big announcement for the open source ambulatory EHR community. A number of other open source EHR are certified, but they’re mostly for the hospital EHR space. So, it’s a great thing for OpenEMR to provide an open source EHR to the ambulatory space.

Plus, I have to admit that it’s pretty great that an open source community can pull together the funds to actually be certified. The programming and development time is one thing, but getting the $20-30k to be certified is a big deal that I’m sure took a lot of effort. I actually wish I knew more about the process they used to achieve the EHR certification.

Now, OpenEMR users better start digging into resources like Meaningful Use Mondays. EHR Certification is the first step, but showing meaningful use of that certified EHR is the next one.

Big thanks to an avid follower of OpenEMR – Jojo the HITMAN who informed me of the news.

Jim Tate’s EHR Incentive Roadmap Resource

Posted on June 29, 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.


HITECH Answers has just released the 3rd edition of Jim Tate’s The Incentive Roadmap® The Meaningful Use of Certified Technology: Stage 1 A Manual for Medical Practices. Version 3.0 of the manual that has been helping practices, consultants and vendors across the country understand the step-by-step process of achieving meaningful use is now available. Written by Jim Tate, a nationally recognized expert on the CMS EHR Incentive Program, certified technology and Meaningful Use objectives,The Incentive Roadmap® looks at what steps are needed to get ready for meaningful use and is downloaded immediately upon purchase.

I consider Jim Tate one of the foremost experts on meaningful use and certified EHR. So, I was excited when he decided to publish a resource on the details of the EHR incentive program.

In The Incentive Roadmap®, Jim Tate covers all of the details that you need to know if you’re considering participation in the EHR incentive program.

The first section is actually incredibly valuable since it covers who is eligible for the EHR incentive money and also includes a comparison of the various EHR incentive programs. Plus, it walks a clinic through the process of determining which program it is eligible for. Certainly many people have already gone through this process, but for the rest of you this is a great resource that will guide you through the EHR incentive options.

The next section of the The Incentive Roadmap® covers the details of the meaningful use criteria. This is the section that I think most people will be interested in having now. Certainly many of these details can be found on the CMS website and we’ve covered a lot of them in our Meaningful Use Monday series. However, if you want to get all of the meaningful use details in one place without all the legalese that CMS loves to provide, then check out the The Incentive Roadmap®.

I also love a later section of the The Incentive Roadmap® where Jim Tate provides some practical strategy advice on how a clinic should approach meaningful use.

I know I’ll be keeping my copy of The Incentive Roadmap® close by as a reference. It’s a lot easier to go through than the HHS/CMS/ONC websites.

CCHIT Has Become Irrelevant

Posted on June 22, 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.

For those of you that are relatively new to EMR and HIPAA, you might not appreciate this post as much as long time readers of EMR and HIPAA. A few years back, I admit that I was pretty harsh on CCHIT and their EHR certification. I remember one guy stopping me at a conference and after realizing who I was asked, “so what’s your issue with CCHIT?” I was happy to answer that I thought they misled the industry (doctors in particular) by saying that the CCHIT certification provided an assurance that the EHR was a good EHR. They never came outright and said this, but that’s what EMR sales people would communicate during the sales process.

In fact, EHR certification was incorrectly seen by many doctors and practice managers as the stamp of approval on an EHR being of higher quality, more effective, easier to use, and was more likely to lead to a successful EHR implementation. EHR certification today still has some of these issues. However, the fact is that the EHR certification doesn’t certify any of the great list above. If EHR certification of any kind (CCHIT or otherwise) could somehow assure: a higher implementation success rate, a better level of patient care, a higher quality user experience, a financial benefit, or any other number of quality benefits, then I’d support it wholeheartedly. The problem is that it doesn’t, and so they can’t make that assurance.

So, yes, I do take issue with an EHR certification which misleads doctors. Even if it’s the EHR salespeople that do the misleading.

I still remember the kickback I got on this post I did where I said CCHIT Was Marginalized and the post a bit later where I said that the CCHIT process was irrelevant. Today, I came across an article on CMIO with some interesting quotes from CCHIT Chair, Karen Bell. Here’s a quote from that article.

In addition, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) new program has provided two new reasons for certification: proof that an EHR can do the things that the government wants it to do, and to enable eligible providers and hospitals to get EHR incentive money.

“The idea is not to assure the product will do all things that are desired for patient care, instead, the idea is to stimulate innovation,” said Bell. As a result, the program is considered a major success because more than 700 certified health IT products are now on the ONC website. “The idea was to get a lot of new products started. This is a very different reason for certification than what we began doing several years ago,” she said.

However, just because CCHIT or another ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Body (ONC-ATCB) doesn’t test and certify for a particular ability, that doesn’t mean the EHRs don’t have it. “It’s just up to [the provider] to make sure the vendors have it,” said Bell.

I first want to applaud Karen Bell and CCHIT for finally describing the true description of what EHR provides a clinic assurance that:
1. The EHR does what the government wants
2. You are eligible for the EHR incentive money
Then, she even goes on to say that it’s up to the providers to make sure the vendors have the right capabilities for their clinic.

I imagine Karen and CCHIT would still probably say that the CCHIT “complete” EHR certification provides assurance that…< fill in the blank >, which the ONC-ATCB EHR certification doesn’t provide. The happy part for me is that even if CCHIT says this, no one is really listening to that message anymore.

Yes, CCHIT has essentially become irrelevant.

I can’t remember anyone in the past year asking me about CCHIT certification. From my experience, many people care about ONC-ATCB EHR certification, but they really couldn’t care less if it comes from CCHIT, Drummond Group, ICSA Labs, SLI Global, or InfoGuard (That’s all of them right?). Have any of you had other experiences?

I also do enjoy the irony of this post coming right after my post about differentiation of EMR companies (Jabba vs Han Solo). CCHIT is the reason that I know so much about the challenge of EHR differentiation. CCHIT’s efforts provided some very valuable (and lengthy) discussions over the past 5 years about ways to help doctors differentiate between the 300+ EHR vendors. As you can see from my comments above, I was just never satisfied with CCHIT being the differentiating factor. As you can see from my post yesterday, I’m still searching for a satisfactory alternative for differentiating EHRs. Until then, we’ll keep providing an independent voice a midst all the noise.

Meaningful Use and Certified EHR’s Impact on EMR User Interfaces

Posted on May 31, 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.

In a previous post, Anthony made this basically off the cuff comment which hit me:
“many a time, the functional requirements take priority over UI”

We see this all over the software development world. In fact, it takes a really unique company to be willing to keep UI over functionality. Ask any salesperson and they’ll tell you that new functions are easier to sell than a great UI. So, it makes sense why this happens. Unfortunate, but makes some sense.

However, this comment also had me asking myself the question, “I wonder how many meaningful use and/or EHR certification requirements caused issues with an EMR UI?

I’ve already had a few EMR demos where I said, what’s that button/function doing there. The response was, oh that was to meet meaningful use/EHR certification requirements. I’m sure many other doctors that use an EMR have seen the same thing. They wonder why an EMR has certain functions since they don’t provide better patient care. Certainly meaningful use and EHR certification is likely to blame for a lot of these possible UI issues. However, I’m sure that many more have to do with EMR software vendors that want to be all things to everyone. When you go down that path, it’s hard to maintain a great UI.

I’ve been starting to think more and more about various EMR UI. Especially with the recent launch of an EMR screenshots website. I’m grateful for the EMR vendors that have been great about sending over their screenshots. It provides an interesting view into the various EMR UI’s. I’m hoping to do some future posts where I take one or more of the screenshots and analyze some of the details. We’ll see how well that goes with an EMR screenshot.

EHR Q&A: Is EMR or EHR a Requirement

Posted on April 14, 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.

Brenda asked:
As a private OT clinic that does not contract with medicare/ medicaid, are we required to use electronic medical records? We do submit claims to private insurance companies electronically.

Answer:
The short answer is no.

In fact, NO ONE is REQUIRED to use EMR whether they take Medicare or Medicaid. However, if you take Medicare or Medicaid, then you have to be a “meaningful use” of a “certified EHR” in order to: 1. Get the EHR Incentive money and 2. Avoid the government penalties for not being a meaningful user of an EHR.

Some might argue that the work to show meaningful use is not worth the effort compared to the incentive money you receive. Plus, the penalties for not using an EHR are not that big of an issue (see this post on the EMR penalties ) Although, there are plenty of people arguing on the other side. For example, Meaningful Use is relatively easy (at least in Stage 1) and the penalties are going to be a major issue for their clinic since they have such a large Medicare or Medicaid population.

Then, there are the doctors that are leaving Medicare and Medicaid behind completely (see this doctor as an example). The argument here is that Medicare and Medicaid are the lowest paying payers out there and now they’re going to penalize them even more so they might as well just stop taking them. We’ll see how many adopt this strategy.

One word of Caution…
There’s a possibility that insurance companies will hop on board the requirement of an EHR and Meaningful Use (see this post about private insurance and meaningful use ). I’m sure they’re keeping a keen eye on how well it goes for the government before making any decisions. My gut feeling is still that they won’t wholesale take the governments approach to EHR and meaningful use. Instead, they may require some sort of electronic documentation or reporting requirements which are more easily performed with an EMR. Essentially it will be an extension of their requirement to have claims submitted electronically.

Despite the myth that EMR is a requirement, so far no one can require you to use an EMR. They can only provide incentives and penalties if you don’t (which only the government has done to this point). Although, there’s always the aspirational goal that Bush and Obama have made of Full EHR by 2014.

The longer answer is…EMR is not a Requirement….yet?

Be sure to check out all the EMR Stimulus Questions and Answers posts.

EHR Incentive Q&A: Do modular certified EMR’s qualify for meaningful use and also qualify for full incentive payouts?

Posted on March 30, 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.

Chris asked the following question:
Do modular certified EMR’s qualify for meaningful use and also qualify for full incentive payouts?

Answer:
Modular certified EHR software can qualify for meaningful use and the EHR incentive payouts. Although, they can’t do it on their own. Although, if you combine the modular certified EHR with other modular or full certified EHR software, then you can qualify. Clear as mud huh?

The good thing is that you can go to the ONC CHPL website and select the certified EHR software which you use and it will tell you if combined it meets the criteria.

So, for example, maybe you have a modularly certified EHR that is certified for everything but ePrescribing. You could then also purchase a certified ePrescribing software and together they would be considered a complete certified EHR that would qualify you for the EHR incentive money.

At least this is my understanding of the intent. I’m sure there are going to be lots of little intricacies without clear answers.

UPDATE: There was some discussion in the comments about whether you had to have a complete EHR or only one that had the modules you use to show meaningful use. Thanks to Jim Tate for finding the HHS reference that says you do have to have a complete EHR even for the modules which you’ve excluded or menu set objectives which you didn’t select.

Healthcare IT Certifications that Matter

Posted on March 2, 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.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, then you probably remember my many rants about the lack of value in EHR certification. In fact, Jim Tate asked me at HIMSS where my dislike of CCHIT came from. I think I told him that I probably got it from EMRUpdate. Certainly that’s where I learned a lot about EMR and EHR and certification in general. However, as I consider his question, my real distaste with CCHIT and quite frankly EHR certification is that it provides little to no value to doctors.

Looking back at all the discussions I had last week with those attending HIMSS, I’m really happy to say that EHR certification was almost never a discussion. Pretty much everyone either was a certified EHR or was almost done with the EHR certification process (which is in line with ONC’s desire that all EHR software be certified).

I still feel that certification provides little value, but I’m really happy to see that EHR certification has basically left the discussion. If everyone has it, then doctors don’t and won’t look to it as a way to select an EHR. I think that’s a very good thing.

As I’ve thought more about EHR certification, it’s funny that someone hasn’t come out with some healthcare IT certifications that would actually provide value to doctors and healthcare. Here’s just a few ideas off the top of my head of items that could be meaningfully certified:

  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Data portability
  • Freedom of data
  • SaaS hosting services

The interesting thing is that many of these certifications could be provided well beyond EMR software and into other healthcare IT products (and even beyond if someone so desired). Certainly the existing EHR certifications try and provides some of these items, but they’re so general and non specific that they aren’t very useful.

For example, the privacy certification could include not only that the data is encrypted but could specify which type and level of encryption is used. Plus, the certification could actually test the encryption to make sure it was implemented properly. I know some eFax vendors that would love this type of certification.

A certification that provides value wouldn’t likely be a simple pass fail certification. Maybe you do set a bar for each requirement that allows you to place a certification badge on that product. However, users should be able to dig into the details of the certification and see what was found during the process. For example, if you make sure they handle passwords correctly, a certification should provide a list of protections that are built into the software that’s being certified (ie. minimum characters, required characters, 2 factor authentication, number of failed passwords before lockout, etc).

If I weren’t so busy with my healthcare IT blog network, I’d consider doing some of this myself. Not only is it a great business, but could really provide value to healthcare. If you start it, just save me a spot as an advisor.

The Meaningful Use Sky is Falling

Posted on January 28, 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.

The always opinionated Anthony Guerra has an article up on Information Week that describes why he thinks the Meaningful Use sky is falling. Add that to a recent comment I got on a previous post that links to a Healthcare Data Management article talking about the potential repeal of the HITECH act and it seems worthwhile to assess the state of meaningful use.

I’ll start with the potential repeal of meaningful use first. We’ve known for a long time that the house was going to be going after healthcare reform once the republicans took over control of the house. In fact, we posted about the potential impacts to HITECH from the new Congress before.

I personally get the feeling that not much has changed on this front. I’m going to reach out to some of the government liasons for EHR vendors that I know that follow this even closer than I do. However, I still believe that:
1. The HITECH funding or at least the Medicare and Medicaid stimulus funding is safe from Congress. I’ve read this a couple of places and so I believe it to be true.
2. Any legislation that is passed by the house still has to pass through the democratic controlled Congress and avoid the Presidential veto. These two seem unlikely.

Of course, when it’s government work you could always be surprised by some loophole in the process that impacts funding or legislation. I won’t be surprised if one of these loop holes appears and affects the HITECH act. However, I still argue that if something does happen to HITECH, it will likely be a casualty of some other political agenda (ie. cutting whatever costs they can find) and not actually because they were specifically targeting HITECH.

Long story short: I still feel like the EHR incentive portion of HITECH is likely safe. Maybe some of the other funding will be cut short. We’ll see.

Now to the points that Anthony Guerra makes in his article. He describes the challenges that many hospitals are facing in regards to meaningful use. Plus he highlights the potential difference in the number of people who “think they qualify for the money” and those who “plan to apply.”

I might argue that if EHR adoption is the goal, then this might not be such a bad result. The idea of “forcing” meaningful use on people has always bothered me a little bit. Encouraging people to show meaningful use is only as good as the meaningful use criteria. If the meaningful use criteria is not very good, then do we really want everyone showing meaningful use?

For example, imagine that a doctor or hospital decides to use an EHR based on the EHR software’s ability to improve the efficiency of their office and the quality of the services they provide to the patient, but deems meaningful use as contrary to those goals. This seems like a great outcome to me. In fact, it seems like a better outcome than a doctor trying to force themselves into the meaningful use hole.

Obviously there are parts of meaningful use that can be very beneficial. For example, having an EMR that can communicate using a standard format (CCD for example) is important and valuable. If it is beneficial, then I see most doctors implementing these features regardless of whether they showed meaningful use or not.

One thing definitely seems clear from all the surveys and other stats I have: interest in EMR has never been higher. Whether that translates to “meaningful use” of a “certified EHR” or physicians meaningfully using an EHR of their choice, is fine with me.

You know my mantra: Select and implement an EMR based on the benefits that you and your clinic want to receive from the EMR. Don’t select and implement it based on a government handout. Those hand outs will be gone after a few years, but your EMR will be with you long after.