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A Bridge Too Far...

October 26, 2010
by rjarvis
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Is meaningful use a reasonable goal?

Listening to Chuck Podesta last week duirng the Infosys Webinar I was struck by several things, including the wide spread in how fast technology is being adopted by many healthcare organizations. Chuck was talking about Fletcher Allen Health Care in Vermont and he was discussing how his organization is well on it's way to meeting it's initial meaningful use goals. But the story for Fletcher Allen is not to achieve meaningful use but rather to go well beyond that and become the kind of healthcare organization that is a leader. While many are thinking about Stage 1, Chuck is mapping out achieving Stage 7.

During our program, Shishir Kumar of Infosys asked our audience several polling questions seeking some information to add to his presentation about moving beyond meaningful use and becoming a performance driven organization that uses the technology tools to boost performance and achieve a wide range of goals ranging from financial to clinical. One of his questions asked the audience to comment on whether they thought meaningful use was easily achieveable, difficult but possible or a real stretch for their organizations. Almost immediately one member of the audience chided us for not offering an option for "achieving meaningful use is impossible."

Our speakers along with Mark Hagland, editor-in-chief of Healthcare Informatics all noted they had talked to organizations that have decided the 2011 goals are just not possible and are instead planning to make it all up in the next rounds. Chuck thought that was a dangerous strategy for those organizations as they could be left behind in an increasingly competitive healthcare environment. It also struck our speakers as a way to just get so far behind as to be buried by the prospect of catching up. Yet, they all understood many healthcare providers are being pulled in all directions and Chuck even noted that some major EMR vendors have yet to be certified meaningful use compliant. That could contribute to the uncertainty and heartburn for many CIOs.

At the same time, the story Chuck had to tell about an implementation in Vermont that saw 800 physicians adopt EMR use with no defections--half of those physicians outside the academic medical practice tied to Fletcher Allen--was compelling. He noted the hospital is already seeing a payoff in terms of care quality and many of the advanced steps of implementation are still in process. Shishir noted that truly turning technology into performance will require going beyond the bare minimum of meaningful use. But, at the same time, creating a high performance technology culture can drive costs out of the system, improve care quality, reduce errors and give C-suite leaders in healthcare the data they need to look ahead--not just put out today's fires.

If you get a chance, check out this webinar by clicking the link in my first paragraph. The archive will remain available for one year from the live program date of Oct. 21, 2010. And let us know if you think, for your organization, that meaingful use is a bridge too far.

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