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Simplifying Meaningful Use Reporting at The GW Medical Faculty Associates

September 10, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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One healthcare system has captured more than $1.8M of unexpected incentives thanks to less painful meaningful use reporting
Praveen Toteja

While the timing of Stage 2 of meaningful use has been a hot topic lately, there are tools and technology to help providers automate meaningful use so that practices of all sizes are ready for this huge next step. As provider organizations advance beyond the earliest phases of meaningful use reporting, they quickly realize how tough it can be to track the details in a process that is constantly changing.

Like countless of physician organizations across the country, one health system that has faced these challenges is the Washington, D.C.-based The GW Medical Faculty Associates, the largest multi-specialty physician practice in the D.C. area, delivering care through 51 medical and surgical specialties, while using the Allscripts Enterprise EHR. 

The leaders of The GW Medical Faculty Associates have chosen SA Ignite, a Chicago-based provider of software solutions that streamlines, automates, and tracks the achievement of meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs), for its reporting needs. The company’s MU Assistant product is a cloud-based solution that relives provider organizations of duties such as keeping track of eligibility, payment year, meaningful use stage, and program type—tasks that can undoubtedly amount to a full-time job.

Attestation is the part of the process to secure the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Program reimbursements that requires providers to prove that they are meaningfully using a certified EHR. Physicians who show meaningful use of a certified EHR for Medicaid are eligible for up to approximately $64,000 in extra payments from CMS and beginning in 2015, while providers who do not attest to meaningful use are subject to financial penalties.

SA Ignite started out by working with regional extension centers out of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information technology (ONC), and when it became known that achieving meaningful use would be a very manual process with a lot of steps involved—including the threat of audits—the company expanded, now partnering with more than 50 organizations on 16 different EHRs, said SA Ignite CEO and founder Tom Lee.

The GW Medical Faculty Associates' CIO Praveen Toteja recently spoke with Healthcare Informatics Assistant Editor Rajiv Leventhal about the benefits of working with SA Ignite, the complexities of meaningful use attestation, how provider organizations can automate their data to help them feel more prepared to handle Stage 2, and other challenges associated with the meaningful use process. Below are excerpts from that interview.

How specifically does your meaningful use tracking vendor help with monitoring and attestation? How does it confront the complexities of meaningful use data management?

In 2012, as our providers wavered in and out of compliance for any given meaningful use measure and rumors of a slow CMS attestation site were buzzing around the ambulatory community, I knew that if we were going to maximize our incentive dollars and not lose $5,000 per physician for missing meaningful use, we needed help. We had a goal of attesting for 100 providers for the 2012 payment year. So I challenged the SA Ignite team: at a minimum, I want to meet the goal, but what can you do to help us beat it?

There are a few key benefits that we experience in working with SA Ignite. First, we needed a view into every future and past 90-day period since upgrading to the certified system. By back-loading data for the entire last quarter of 2012, The GW Medical Faculty Associates' managers were able to see daily 90-day windows and pinpoint compliant providers who were only compliant for minimal compliant periods. Second, it gave us the capability of submitting final results to CMS by click of a button. Initially, we had to do everything manually with the first provider we worked on. That took days actually, and another one took 40 minutes to submit all the numbers. With SA Ignite, we were quickly able to click a button and transmit data for hundreds of providers at a time.

By early 2013, we doubled our goal and attested for 201 providers. Exceeding the goal did not create additional work, and with the streamlined attestation process, we had most of our providers attested prior to the end of the calendar year. We earned $1.8 million in unexpected incentives, $500,000 of which would have vanished based on the structure of the meaningful use program, and $1.3 million of which would have hopefully been captured in 2013. Factor in staff time savings, and we calculated a return on investment (ROI) in excess of 450 percent (according to a case study done with SA Ignite). That means the investment paid itself back in roughly two months. That doesn’t even factor in benefits on the audit side or accelerating the $1.3 million to 2012.

Prior to using this software, how did you manage to work through all of this?

The biggest issue was the frequency of running reports for each provider, managing them on spreadsheets, figuring out who qualified at what point, or where they lacked. All that become very transparent with SA Ignite—they would have the numbers that would tell us what we needed to know. Don’t take this the wrong way, though— we are trying to get all of our providers to do everything, but with more than 900 of them, it’s hard to get everyone to make all the changes that meaningful use requires. The key thing was to find out when they qualified. We never said, “You are already qualified, so you can stop doing this or that.” That never happened.

As far as the complexities that go along with Stage 1 and Stage 2, some people think it’s complicated and a lot of work. The way I see it, it’s better patient care. Yes, there is more responsibility on the clinicians, but when you discuss with them that the end result is better patient care, they subscribe.