Few Doctors Ready To Qualify for Meaningful Use

Posted on May 3, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A new study published in Health Affairs has confirmed what I, at least, have suspected for some time about physicians and their EMRs.  The study, which surveyed 3,996 physicians, found that while 91 percent were eligible for Medicare or Medicaid Meaningful Use programs, only 11 percent of those intending to apply had their act together.

Researchers, who analyzed data from the 2011 mail survey supplement to the annual National Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey, found that 51 percent of respondents were planning to apply for MU Stage 1 incentive programs. However, it seems that only 11 percent of doctors planning to apply have a capable enough EMR set-up to support up to two-thirds of Medicare Stage 1 core objectives.

Now, this was not completely unexpected. In the final Stage 1 MU rule, CMS had estimated that 10 to 36 percent of Medicare eligible pros, and 15 to 47 percent of Medicaid eligibles, would end up meeting the agency’s criteria.

And it should be noted, the HealthAffaits authors remind us, that about 124,000 eligibles had registered in 2011, and that CMS had paid out $275 million to 15,000 participants. Also, Medicaid programs paid out about $220 million to about 10,500 physicians.

Still, you can’t bury poor performance like this in a pile of data. Clearly, a program is lacking something important just over 1 in 10 physicians manage to set themselves up for Meaningful Use cash — especially if  they were trying hard to do so.

The problem with news items like these is that they don’t get into what’s holding physicians back. It’s actually a bit disappointing that the HealthAffairs study didn’t offer any red meat on the “Why Can’t Doctors Qualify?” issue, as we all know that talking about problems doesn’t make them go away.  (I do admit that in the world of public policy at least, simply underscoring a problem gives rulemakers ammunition to dig deeper into an issue.)

Still, I’d love to know what you’re seeing out there in terms of unprepared physicians. Are we talking practices that got fast-talked into buying inappropriate or junky technology?  Lack of understanding what they bought?  Slow-moving practices that are on the right track?