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The Road to Meaningful Use is Getting Crowded

November 16, 2011
by Gabriel Perna
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Recent research from HIMSS Analytics indicates more hospitals have put themselves in a good position to meet Stage 1 requirements

In a relatively short period of time, the number of hospitals that are in a good position to meet Stage 1 of meaningful use attestation has jumped significantly, according to recent research from the Chicago-based Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). A survey by HIMSS Analytics, the organization’s research arm, revealed that 41 percent of the 778 hospital respondents polled in September said they were Stage 1 ready. This was up from 26 percent that said they were ready in February.

Of that 41 percent, 10 percent of the respondents said they would meet all 14 core items as well as five of the 10 menu items that make up Stage 1 of meaningful use attestation. The remaining 31 percent said they can meet between 10 and 13 of the core items outlined in the meaningful use requirements and a minimum of three menu items.

The quarterly study, “Summary of Meaningful Use Readiness,” was done to evaluate the readiness of U.S. Hospitals as they work to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments.

Growth Not Shocking
The growth over seven months was not surprising to HIMSS Analytics’ senior director of research Jennifer Horowitz. “It’s a huge focus to healthcare organizations right now,” she says. “This is where they are putting all of their focus. I would expect our numbers to grow even more. Because we are not doing forecasting, it’s hard to see at what level, but I think we will definitely see positive movement.”

The growing numbers correlate with HIMSS Analytics’ own model, the EMR Adoption Model (EMRAM), which scores a hospital’s progress based on eight stages. According to Horowitz, Stage 3 is the benchmark for organizations having significant electronic medical record (EMR) capabilities, such as clinical documentation flow sheets. When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act /Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (ARRA-HITECH) Act into legislation in 2009, only 45 percent of hospitals reached Stage 3 of the EMRAM model. Today, 72 percent of hospitals are Stage 3, she says.

Hospitals are reaching higher stages of the EMRAM model, according to Horowitz. Four percent of hospitals have now reached Stage 6 of the EMRAM model, up from 2.6 percent earlier this year. Stage 7 also saw an increase with 1.1 percent of hospitals reaching that level, up from 0.8 percent.

Inside the Research
Horowitz also notes that that there is a correlation in the size of a hospital and the readiness to meet Stage 1 of meaningful use. Larger hospitals and academic medical centers are more likely to reach Stage 1 than smaller community-based hospitals. This is to be expected, she says.

“We’ve been tracking data in this database since HIMSS acquired it back in 2004,” says Horowitz. “It has always been our experience that the academic medical centers tend to be leaders. They tend to adopt technology first. To me, it was just validating our understanding about the way hospitals adopt IT. It makes sense to me that the academic medical centers would be more advanced in their ability to meet meaningful use because they have high levels of clinical sophistication.”

One area that hospitals of all sizes and EMR adoption rates could improve upon is the implementation of security risk analysis. In the most recent quarterly survey, only 45 percent of hospitals have completed a security risk analysis, and only half of EMRAM Stage 7 hospitals were doing it.

Interestingly enough, in a separate HIMSS Analytics study that focused squarely on security, Horowitz says the number was much higher, with approximately 75 percent of the respondents saying they were doing a risk analysis. However, that study focused on all eligible healthcare providers, not just hospitals, Horowitz says.

The only definitive regional trend to come out of the study was a lack of health IT adoption in the mountain region of the state. Horowitz says rural states such as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are dominated by smaller hospitals.

The next quarterly report from HIMSS Analytics on meaningful use will come in December.

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