Given all the complexities and concerns (and in some quarters, frankly, complaints) about Stage 1 of the meaningful use process under the HITECH Act, it’s been rather surprising how many hospitals, health systems, and a few medical groups, have chosen to attest at the first opportunity. In the past week, we’ve published four interviews (see the “Meaningful Use Updates” section on our website) with first-day attesters.
What’s more, our web poll has found that 53 percent of respondents say their organizations will attest to stage 1 meaningful use within the next three months, a figure far higher than I had personally anticipated.
What does all this mean?
What I’m hearing from the early attesters is that they and their colleagues at their patient care organizations began the process of working forward on the MU requirements early; in many cases, they had carefully planned their clinical IT strategies and rollouts years ago, of course; and some have been live with electronic health records for a number of years. Still, even those leading the most advanced organizations say they’ve had to work through certain inevitable challenges in order to fulfill the Stage 1 requirements. But the key thing they are all telling us is that meaningful use—at least Stage 1 of meaningful use—has not been as difficult to achieve as one might have thought, all things being considered. Of course, there have been a lot of specific sets of tasks to work through, and some of the requirements, particularly with regard to quality data reporting, have compelled these organizations to rework processes and rearrange specific priorities. But all in all, they say, they’re making it happen.
So what do Pam Crawford, Michael Sauk, Barbara Watkins, and Ferdinand Velasco have in common? Their organizations—three health systems and one cardiology group—are all very different, in many ways. But in all four cases, there has been a concerted effort on the part of the overall leadership of their organizations, to make attestation happen; and that effort has been part of a much broader push to leverage clinical IT to improve patient safety, care quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in their organizations. In other words, it hasn’t been driven primarily by a narrow focus on obtaining the stimulus funds involved.
It hasn’t hurt these folks, either, that their organizations have essentially strategized around core clinical vendors; it’s virtually certain that those organizations whose leaders continue to focus on best-of-breed strategies will encounter more challenges along the MU journey. Still, even those organizations can clearly work their way towards success.
Of course, some experts, including Mitch Morris of Deloitte, whom I interviewed this week, are cautioning healthcare IT leaders regarding legitimate issues, such as the fact that attesting now means necessarily committing to a very tight timeline between when the final rule for stage 2 comes out and the deadline for fulfilling the stage 2 MU requirements.
But I have the feeling that the four leaders whose interviews we’ve just published, and their colleagues at their organizations, are the types of people who won’t let that stop them. The MU train has definitely left the station, and these folks are moving forward on high-speed rail.