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Secure Messaging MU Requirements a Struggle for Some Providers

March 25, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The patient engagement requirements for Stage 2 of meaningful use under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) could be a struggle for providers who have been late to adopt an electronic health record (EHR), a recent study surmises.

The study, from researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin, examines adoption of the MyChart patient portal (from Verona, Wisc.-based Epic Corporation), which is linked to the Epic EHR, at a multispecialty academic group practice and 10 affiliated community primary care clinics. Between 2010 and 2012, researchers found that portal enrollment increased from 13.2 percent of patients to 23.1 percent of patients. The speed of enrollment, the researchers note, remains similar to that of the earliest centers (such as Kaiser and Group Health Cooperative) a decade ago.

Ultimately, this could have an effect on Stage 2 meaningful use requirements, specifically those that require providers securely message their patients. That requirement requires high enrollment of the portal itself, the researchers say. Providers, especially specialists, may have a hard time reaching thresholds necessary for the meaningful use requirements.

Only 38 percent of all physicians surveyed would have met the digital communication requirements, and that includes 87 percent of primary care physicians. In some cases, a small percentage of each specialty had met the requirement. Overall only 38 percent of specialists had met the secure messaging requirements.

Much of the difference, researchers say, was based on those differences in enrollment. Few physicians near the median for enrollment passed the MU threshold on secure messaging. Those who were below the threshold had lower average enrollment. Since enrollment hasn’t accelerated in more recent times, the researchers surmise that reaching this requirement could be a struggle for some providers.

The other patient engagement requirement for Stage 2, having patients view, download, and transmit their record, isn’t as much of a reach for any type of provider. Between 87 to 100 percent of primary care and various specialty providers would have met the threshold.

The researchers determined that those who had adopted portals were typically satisfied with its usage. Of the nearly 3,000 responses, more than 96 percent were either very satisfied (66.5 percent) or satisfied (30 percent) with it. Nearly 98 percent said they would recommend it to a friend or family member.  And more than 90 percent said it improved communication with their health team. Sixty-one percent were very satisfied with the secure messaging component.

The study was published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality.

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