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Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead in Meaningful Use

June 5, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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How is the industry taking to the meaningful use program? National Jewish Health’s CTO shares her perspective

In the meaningful use (MU) program, much of the attention has been on the development of electronic health records (EHRs), which can become information silos.  As the data in EHRs becomes more robust and comprehensive, organizations can begin to analyze this information in an effort to provide higher quality care and affect outcomes.

On July 23, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, Judy McCarthy, chief technology officer at National Jewish Health, a Denver, Col.-based respiratory hospital, will discuss how Stage 2 of meaningful use is pushing providers to deliver better care through the use of EHRs, during a panel session at the Health IT Summit in Denver, sponsored by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2). (Since December 2013, iHT2 has been in partnership with Healthcare Informatics, through its parent company, the Vendome Group, LLC.) Separately, McCarthy recently sat down with HCI Associate Editor Rajiv Leventhal to talk about lessons learned from the MU program so far, providers’ feelings on the program, where the challenges lie, and what the future holds. Below are excerpts of that interview.

What lessons has the industry learned from the meaningful use program so far?

Many organizations have been able to attest to Stage 1, and I think that has a lot to do with the stimulus dollars to at least get folks started. But vendors are still struggling to improve their applications and be able to implement in time for all the organizations that are trying to attest. It’s a little different from a hospital perspective than it is for eligible providers because so many of those providers are small offices that have to take on a fairly large expense in order to position themselves to attest for MU.

Judy McCarthy

Overall, the program takes away time that needs to be spent on other high priorities, and that is something that I hear a lot as organizations are struggling with dollars and resources in order to push forward. One key lesson is that you can’t just throw it in the system, and think that the data will just be captured. You need a coordinator—someone to manage the program since it’s ongoing. I do think organizations have looked at it to be a lot less of a drain on resources than it really is. In several cases, I have seen organizations not capturing as much data as they would like to, and as a result, end up having to do twice the amount of work to reach their goal. So are we accomplishing the overall goal? Certainly that should be asked. Looked at from the beginning, from the dollar perspective, interoperability and decreasing costs, we’re not there yet, and we have a long way to go to see those benefits.

How are you progressing in your hospital?

Originally, we didn’t even think we qualified. We are an ambulatory hospital with very few inpatient beds, so from an inpatient perspective, we wouldn’t have qualified. We are now looking at it from an eligible provider perspective, working with vendors to get on right version so we can attest this year, Stage 1, Year 1.

What will be the impact of CMS’ recent proposed rule that would provide providers more flexibility for MU reporting in 2014?

It could be significant when you’re looking at the provider level. There are a lot of provider groups that have yet to do it, didn’t think they could do it, weren’t prepared, or hadn’t sought out a vendor. A lot of provider groups have joined forces in order to obtain a system—my physician did that, rather than attempt to do it alone. A lot of the bigger hospitals are already there, so they’re making the move to implement their systems to allow them to go to Stage 2, as they have probably been in Stage 1 for at least a year, if not two.

 It gives the vendors a reprieve a bit, too, and that’s where the bigger struggle is. It’s not necessarily that the vendors haven’t prepared the systems, but having the staff and resources to get their customers implemented has been a trial. They have also hurried to get to the Stage 2 2014 version, and it may not perform as well as needed. So this could really help a lot of providers, and give them a bit of an option where they don’t feel like they have to cram something in. But hospitals might already be past that point.

How concerning is it that just four hospitals have attested to Stage 2 so far?