Meaningful Use Measures: The “All 3” Vital Signs Dilemma – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on May 2, 2011 I Written By

Lynn Scheps is Vice President, Government Affairs at EHR vendor SRSsoft. In this role, Lynn has been a Voice of Physicians and SRSsoft users in Washington during the formulation of the meaningful use criteria. Lynn is currently working to assist SRSsoft users interested in showing meaningful use and receiving the EHR incentive money.

How does a physician meet this measure if only one or two, but not all three, of the vital signs are a routine part of their practice? This is an issue on which I have sought clarification since before my first Meaningful Use Monday post.  The question has now been asked frequently enough to warrant a formal answer on the CMS FAQ site—and the answer is problematic.

Meaningful Use Core Measure: Record Vital Signs
For more than 50% of all unique patients age 2 and over seen by the EP, height, weight, and blood pressure are recorded as structured data.
Exclusion: Any EP who either sees no patients 2 years or older or who believes that all 3 vital signs of height, weight, and blood pressure of their patients have no relevance to their scope of practice.

You’d think this measure would be pretty straightforward—and it is, for primary-care physicians (and some specialists), for whom taking vital signs is a given. Other specialists, such as dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and psychiatrists, will likely attest that (all 3) vital signs are not a routine part of their practice, and they will meet the measure by attesting to an exclusion.

But how will other specialists meet and report on this measure? Some orthopaedists, for example, routinely* record height and weight, but few take blood pressure, (recording it only when documented—typically by the patient’s primary-care physician—for surgical clearance). ENT specialists may routinely* take blood pressure, but don’t record height and weight.

According to FAQ Answer ID# 10593, “If an EP believes that one or two of these vital signs are relevant to their scope of practice, they must record all three in order to meet the measure.” Therefore, specialists like the above have two choices if they want to demonstrate meaningful use:

  • Attest that all 3 vital signs have no relevance to their practice, or
  • Add the missing function(s) to their practice’s workflow, despite the lack of relevance.

I am interested in how physicians facing this dilemma plan to address the vital signs measure.  Please share your comments below.

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*Note:  “Routine” is a key word here. I received an e-mail from a senior CMS staff member saying that “there is nothing in the regulation that specifies that claiming this exclusion precludes an EP from recording these vital signs on an occasional basis.” Therefore, the dilemma exists only for those physicians who routinely record one or two of the vital signs.

Lynn Scheps is Vice President, Government Affairs at EHR vendor SRSsoft. In this role, Lynn has been a Voice of Physicians and SRSsoft users in Washington during the formulation of the meaningful use criteria. Lynn is currently working to assist SRSsoft users interested in showing meaningful use and receiving the EHR incentive money. Check out Lynn’s previous Meaningful Use Monday posts.