In my last post, I challenged each of you to begin the process of utilizing electronic medical records (EMR). I want to reinforce that call to action; you need to adopt a certified EMR, like ExamWRITER, now. The government wants you to use EMR, not in a superficial manner, but in a meaningful way. That desire is the basis for the incentive payments that will be available to all eligible providers.
Meaningful use is the foundation for the entire government incentive payment initiative, yet this concept seems vague and confusing. It’s like trying to drive down a foggy road without a clear view of where we are headed. It shouldn’t be this way. Meaningful use is quite simple once you understand its basic concepts. Over the next 5 years, the healthcare industry is being asked to move to a high-level use of electronic record keeping and information exchange in anticipation that it will dramatically improve the quality and efficiency of American healthcare. In order to reach this goal, the meaningful use of EMRs will progress through 3 stages over this period of time. The first stage will be over years 2011 and 2012 and, according to the Final Rule, has specific meaningful use objectives that eligible providers must satisfy to qualify for incentive pay.
The objectives (or measures) are not difficult and, if not a part of your typical workflow, can be easily added. Your certified EMR will provide you with the tools to satisfy the meaningful use objectives. There are 25 meaningful use objectives, 15 that are called “core” and 10 that are named “menu”. The government is requiring that all 15 core objectives be met during your reporting period and that 5 out of 10 menu objectives be met, with your choosing the 5 that you meet. There is room for exclusion in these core and menu objectives if you cannot perform them, due to an objective being outside of your scope of license, or if you do not have any patients that would allow you to meet the objective. In these cases, you would simply identify that item as an exclusion and it would qualify as having performed the objective. However, there is a lot that is unclear about this exclusion language, and it doesn’t appear to me that it will be allowed frequently or on a recurring basis.
I feel that the easiest way to understand meaningful use is to recognize the government’s objectives in the first stage. The 3 basic criteria include use of a certified EHR:
- In a meaningful manner including e-prescribing, data storage, and retrieval
- For electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of healthcare
- To submit clinical quality and other measures
The 25 meaningful use objectives fit within those 3 areas. In my next column, we will look a little deeper at examples of these objectives. It’s my desire to help you understand this whole program, to be comfortable with its demands, and to give you the tools to achieve meaningful use of your EMR. My immediate challenge to you is to begin using your EMR, or if you haven’t purchased ExamWRITER yet, do so and begin the implementation process. There is no need to wait—begin the EMR process now.
For more information: Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.