When CMS and the ONC issued a final rule for the second stage of meaningful use on Aug. 29, only 3,125 eligible providers had already attested to it. More specifically, out of the thousands of eligible providers who should have been attesting for Stage 2, only about 4 percent had done so. The reason: complicated and demanding government requirements.
While the new Stage 2 ruling extends timelines and provided flexibilities for eligible providers, the complexity of these rules and the constant changes and modifications to them, becomes daunting for the majority of eligible providers that are already struggling with general issues impacting their practices.
Even though meaningful use has gained momentum and support as an essential way of transforming our healthcare system, the complexities are a distraction and are not bringing to light the value but rather the increased burdens.
Here are five ways that physician practices can grasp, embrace, and implement the second stage of meaningful use:
1. Re-engineer practice work flow. EHRs become a burden when practices try to adopt EHR systems and become meaningful use compliant without re-thinking work flow. Re-engineering your work flow around good EHR technology will help achieve higher efficiency.
2. Set aside time. To try and study the new guidelines between patient appointments or surgeries will create even more chaos. Working with your administrative staff, schedule one or two days or half-days a month in which you only focus on the changes and specifics of what needs to be done, assign tasks, and plan your next follow-up review.
3. Use patient portals effectively. The second stage of meaningful use requires that at least 5 percent of all unique patients during the reporting period view, download, or transmit their information electronically. Many of your patients have smartphones with Internet access. Using mobile patient portals is certainly something everyone should consider. These are small things practices can do, including having computers or tablets in the reception area.
4. Stay on top of other incentive programs and talk to your vendor. There are various CMS sponsored incentive programs in addition to meaningful use such as PQRS. Practices may feel overwhelmed and ignore their eligibility to claim these incentives. That leaves a lot of money on the table. Talk to your vendors as many are more than willing to help.
5. Communicate with your patients and close the loop. The second stage of meaningful use requires practices to send relevant education material to patients. Use it as an opportunity to communicate with your patients rather than a chore. Effective communication increases patient satisfaction, improves compliance, and brings patients into your clinic for follow-ups. Practices should also implement patient reminders triggered by clinical drivers such as open lab orders, unfilled prescriptions, as well as health reminders.
While the updates, changes, and revisions are complicated and will require attention, it is essential that every healthcare practice use the extended timelines to prepare for implementation using a framework that doesn’t disrupt current operations. Get a handle on Stage 2 because the next level of updates and revisions is sure to be even more complex and daunting.
Divan Dave: I came to the US from India in 1984 armed with two Masters Degrees (Chemistry and Computer Science), boundless energy and drive. I founded ISM in 1989 in Tarrytown NY, after a few years at companies including Thomson Financial Group where I rose quickly to an executive leadership role on a mission-critical application. I earned my third Masters Degree in Computer Science in 1986 from CUNY.