Meaningful Use Attestation Issues for EHR Companies

Posted on October 26, 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.

Many of you have probably read about the problems that GE Centricity EHR software had with a few of the meaningful use guidelines. If you haven’t read about it, go and check out that link to read Priya Ramachandran’s post about what happened. Plus, you can read a GE representative’s additional comments and clarifications. I actually had the chance to talk with GE in person at MGMA about these issues. While there’s no doubt that GE is taking heat for these problems (and they should), I personally believe it just highlights a bunch of possible problems with meaningful use attestation and raises a lot of unanswered questions.

My first premise is this, “If a large EHR vendor that’s intimately involved in the meaningful use rule creation process can mess up some of the meaningful use guidelines, how many other EHR vendors are going to do the same?”

This is a serious issue. Imagine you’re using an EHR software that runs into this problem. How quickly will that EHR vendor respond? Will they even know that they have an issue with meaningful use attestation before it’s too late? At least GE caught it early and can now address the issue for all of their doctors that are affected and get their EHR stimulus money. Even if they don’t get it resolved this year (which wouldn’t be a good outcome), then they do have next year which pays the same amount of money.

I’m not sure the same outcome will occur for some doctor who instead of proactively realizing a meaningful use attestation mistake gets “caught” with some mistake in some sort of meaningful use attestation audit. I guess we’ll see how those play out, but I imagine it won’t be as pleasant for MU attestation issues to be caught in an audit.

Plus, I think there’s very little doubt that there are other EHR companies which haven’t implemented the meaningful use attestation requirements quite right. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we hear of more issues. In fact, I have a feeling that EHR vendors that are reading this post are ready to forward it to their meaningful use expert/development staff to evaluate if they’re at risk for such a problem. The answer is that many EHR vendors likely are at risk. I imagine part of the risk is due to laziness in implementing the meaningful use guidelines (I guess they haven’t been reading our Meaningful Use Monday series), but the other part is that it’s not like meaningful use is that simple. It’s not quite the tax code, but it’s not always that straightforward.

This incident does bring up a whole new set of questions for CMS to answer. For example, what happens if a doctor attests to meaningful use and then realizes that for some reason (their fault, their EHR vendor’s fault or some other situation) they actually didn’t meet the meaningful use guidelines as required? Do they need to show another 90 days of meaningful use? Do they need to return their EHR stimulus check? Will CMS take the money back out of future payments? Can a physician go back and fix any mistakes that were made (this will likely depend on what went wrong)?

I’ll be keeping an eye on this discussion and we’ll do our best to post what GE and others learn from CMS when it comes to mistakes in meaningful use attestation. I have a feeling this could get a little messy. Based on my own experience with CMS in the past, I have a feeling they’re going to be as lenient as they possibly can be. However, they’re still going to have to follow whatever legal guidelines they’ve been given.

One other question that still makes me wonder is why didn’t the CCHIT EHR certification catch this mistake too? This would obviously require a pretty good dive into the EHR certification guidelines and the implementation of these guidelines. To me it highlights how little value the EHR certification process adds to the EHR market.

I have a feeling that this post has people like Dr. West enjoying their Meaningful Use Freedom even more.