Some Pointed Thoughts on Meaningful Use

Posted on January 19, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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’ve been promising some more detailed coverage on Meaningful Use for a little bit now. I’ll admit that life has been busy, but I’ll also admit that the amount of information out there on Meaningful Use is also a bit overwhelming. However, consider this the start of my coverage of meaningful use. This is still kind of general, but should get us started down the path of meaningful use (I hope).

First up, I’ve already created a meaningful use post with links to all the official documents related to meaningful use. So, go check that out if you want the full details on what’s being proposed. Also, check out some of my other coverage of meaningful use on EMR and EHR.

Now for a summary of a number of themes I’ve found people talking about in regards to meaningful use:
Meaningful Use Needs to be Simplified – The only people I’ve found who think this is a great piece of work are really vendors that are trying to hop on the ARRA stimulus money band wagon. Hopefully enough people will comment to ONC/HHS that this will become a reality. If this doesn’t happen, I predict major problems with this legislation

Small Clinic Challenge – I’m not sure how purposeful this was or not, but looking at the criteria I think it’s clear that small clinics are going to have a huge challenge meeting meaningful use guidelines. Large clinics are going to have a real challenge with meeting the proposed criteria, but small clinics are going to have a really hard time with this.

Benefit to Doctors – I hope that someone takes the time to do a detailed analysis of the criteria and evaluate how the various meaningful use criteria will benefit doctors. If no one else does, then I’ll see what I can do to evaluate it. However, on first analysis the criteria seems like it won’t make physicians better at their job. I’ve always said that improving physicians lives should be a key part of any effort to encourage EMR adoption. This seems lacking from the meaningful use criteria. Look forward to more coverage on this topic.

Few Details for Specialty Providers – I’d really hoped that meaningful use for specialties would be clearly defined. As best I can tell, it looks like there’s been little direction given in regards to specialties meeting the various meaningful use objectives.

Few Details on Measurement and Reporting Methods – I’m guessing that more of these details are forthcoming, but I’m just absolutely amazed that with 692 pages of information there aren’t more practical details of how people will be able to show meaningful use and how HHS/CMS/ONC is going to verify that clinics are actually meeting the meaningful use objectives. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised since it is government work. However, that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

Now for my biggest concern of all…
Little Hope the Little Guy Will be Heard – I already provided my first lament about providing meaningful use feedback being difficult. However, I’ve started hearing a chorus of people around the internet expressing feedback that doctors, smaller EMR vendors and other EMR participants aren’t being listened to by the powers that be. Sure, there’s a place on the HHS website to provide feedback. The question is will it be heard? Or as one EMR vendor emailed me, “So, I could make my comments, but will anyone really listen to little old me?”

I’m not sure the solution to this problem, but I’m interested in participating in a solution. Do we flood the HHS comments with this type of commentary? Do we flood PR channels about it (Will they care about only $18 billion?). Do we not concern ourselves as much with transforming governments definition of meaningful use and instead focus on a movement to educate people on meaningful use and the challenges associated with the EMR stimulus money and how EMR can benefit them regardless of EMR stimulus money? Please share your ideas.

Along these lines, I’d be very interested in publishing well thought out feedback that’s being submitted to HHS about meaningful use. Maybe that’s one way to start a broader discussion about meaningful use and the EMR stimulus money.