Catch a Break – Hardship Exceptions to Meaningful Use

Meaningful_Use_sticknoteAre you a Medicare provider who has yet to participate in meaningful use? If so, an important deadline is approaching quickly. July 1 is the deadline to begin meaningful use Stage 1 to attest before Medicare payment adjustments take place in 2015. That’s right, you must have installed a 2014 Edition certified EHR, begin your three-month reporting period on July 1, and attest on October 1 to avoid the 1% penalty.

If you’re in your second year of Stage 1 or beginning Stage 2 in 2014, you have two opportunities to begin your reporting period: July 1 and October 1.

Are you afraid you’re not going to make it?

Not to worry. The CMS recognizes that there are valid reasons that render an undue hardship or eliminate feasibility for a practice to participate. Those valid reasons will prevent payment adjustments for a year. Exceptions are segmented into six categories:

  • Infrastructure – EPs practicing in an area where internet access is not available or feasible to attain
  • New EPs – EPs who began their practice without sufficient time to begin meaningful use and attest before 2015
  • Unforeseen Circumstances – In the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event
  • Patient Interaction – EPs who do not have face-to-face or telemedicine interaction with patients, or who do not need to follow-up with their patients
  • Multiple Locations – Applies when it causes the EP to lose control over the availability of certified EHR for more than 50% of patient encounters
  • Vendor Issues – EPs whose EHR vendor has been unable to attain 2014 ONC certification for their EHR*

Still not sure if you qualify for the hardship exception? Use the CMS online tool to determine if you qualify. Don’t sit back just yet. You must file for an exception by July 1, 2014, to avoid penalties in 2015. Exceptions are valid for one year and then must be renewed.

If your hardship exception is approved you’ll skip your current year of meaningful use and advance to the next year when you resume. For example, if you were scheduled to demonstrate your second year of Stage 1 in 2014, you would skip to your first year of Stage 2 in 2015.

While some providers may file a hardship exception to postpone their meaningful use adoption and see if a recent CMS proposal will allow them attest, there is no guarantee your exception will be approved. Our 2014 Edition certified products are ready and available now to help you meet your meaningful use requirements.

For more information and specific details about the hardship exception, view the CMS document outlining meaningful use timelines and exceptions. And of course, if you have any questions about meaningful use, contact us at


* While 717 EHR vendors offered certified products for the 2011 Edition of meaningful use, only 151 offer certified products for the 2014 Edition. Eyefinity’s EHR solutions are currently certified to meet the ONC 2014 Edition criteria and support both Stage 1 and 2 meaningful use. [Source: Certified Health IT Product List, accessed June 24, 2014, comparing 2011 to 2014 complete ambulatory EHRs]

The Core of the Matter

Core Measure 7 BadgePatient Electronic Access

How has your meaningful use experience been so far? Hopefully you’ve been breezing through it, but even so, you probably still have questions and would benefit from some interpretation along the way.

Recently, we tackled Core Measure 17 (CM17), voted the most challenging measure for eye care providers (ECPs)*, so let’s address Core Measure 7 (CM7), which relates closely to CM17.

Requirements of CM7
Core measure 7 consists of two measures, both of which must be achieved and are direct functions of the patient portal. The first requires that online access be provided to over 50% of all unique patients seen during the demonstration period. The second requires that over 5% of all unique patients during that same demonstration period view, download, or transmit their health information to another provider or any other 3rd party.

What it means to you
If you’re using a complete EHR solution, meeting the first requirement of CM7 shouldn’t be difficult. However, some providers may find it a little tougher to meet the second requirement. Like CM17, the challenge lies with the fact that it’s out of your hands – you are depending on the actions of others to fulfill this requirement. The challenge grows if you have patients who are less technologically inclined, or if you’re in a rural area where internet connectivity may be less common.

Conquering the Challenge
CM7 is achievable, even though it’s based on the actions of others. The easier it is for your patients, and the more benefit they receive, the more likely they are to appreciate and embrace the opportunity to access their health information. Here are some examples that might help you:

  • Make sure you have the correct email address for your patient. You can take care of this when the patient checks in for their appointment.
  • Remind your patients that they can view their health records and test results, as well as communicate directly with you electronically.
  • Print a reminder on the back of your appointment cards, with instructions on how to log in and create an account.
  • Set up a desktop or laptop computer in your waiting room, and designate one of your staff to assist patients with establishing their account and accessing their records.

Remember, by starting early – even before your demonstration period – you’ll have momentum on your side and be well on the way to fulfilling this core measure. Check your progress regularly to assure that you’re on track for success. Be sure you’re using not only a complete EHR solution, but one that provides a meaningful use calculator to help you gauge your progress. This core measure, more than any other, empowers patients to stay informed and be involved in their own healthcare. Next stop, success!

Check back here frequently for help with more of the MU2 core measures. And if you have any questions, contact us at or visit us online at


*Voted by us

Success Made Simple – Attestation for Meaningful Use

Meaningful_Use_sticknoteMeaningful use is here for the duration. Whether or not you choose to participate, it’s important to keep the goal of meaningful use in mind–to deliver better patient care. How? By encouraging patients to be involved in their own care, moving to uniform documentation, and transparent patient history. Documentation will be readily available and relevant throughout the patient’s life. In the long run, this will provide patients with more consistent and cohesive care. So let’s consider the basics leading to a successful attestation in meaningful use.

The foundation of success begins before you start your demonstration period. Knowledge is power, and knowledge will be the strongest tool to lead you to a successful attestation. Be sure you understand the long-term purpose of the program, and subsequently, your role as an eligible provider demonstrating meaningful use. With that understanding, the requirements to achieve a successful attestation will make more sense.

Use a complete EHR system to eliminate gaps in functionality. Doctors using modular systems need to pair their product with other certified systems to meet all of the requirements for meaningful use, contact your vendor if you have questions. Keep in mind that practice management systems will need to be paired with an ONC certified EHR to successfully attest. When choosing a certified solution, you’ll want to examine vendors and their solution offerings carefully. Find a vendor who takes a proactive approach to your needs and is committed to your success. Did you know that the number of solutions that are currently ONC 2014 certified for meaningful use Stage 2 is only about 10% of those certified for Stage 1? It’s important to find the vendor that stays ahead of the curve, so you won’t be left scrambling.

From there, review the criteria for successful attestation. You’ll need to understand the core and menu objectives, as well as the clinical quality measures required of you. Build momentum even before beginning your demonstration period. If you have a grasp of the goals you are working toward, you can begin early, and when you do begin your demonstration, you’ll already be on the road to attestation with no trouble. Tracking your progress at regular intervals along the way will make a tremendous difference to be sure you’re on schedule. You’ll want to be sure you’re using a solution that includes a meaningful use dashboard or calculator to make this task both useful and easy.

It’s never too early to prepare for the task before you, and it is preparation that will carry you to a successful attestation. If you have any questions about meaningful use, contact us at

Three Simple Ways to Improve Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) This Week

SEO-imageMake your business stand out.

Take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) to increase your website’s rank, leading to increased traffic to your site.

All major search engines have search results, and web sites rank based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un paid search results.

Here are three simple things to do this week to improve your SEO:

1.    Define your keywords
Think about keywords as a search term. What words would a potential client use when searching for your business? Once you choose your keywords, be conscious of placing appropriate keywords throughout every aspect of your site: your titles, content, URLs, and image names.

2.    Choose page titles that accurately communicate page content
Each page title should be unique, descriptive and less than 70 characters long. Search engines display only the first 60-70 characters, so it is important to use brief, short, and informative titles.

3.    Make URL’s simple to understand
Create a URL that is easy to understand. A user should be able to recreate the URL if needed.  Like a page title, the URL should be short and informative.

Use these three tips to help search engines provide targeted traffic to your site. Targeted visitors to your website can provide publicity, revenue, and new patients.

Learn more about Eyefinity’s eWebExtra.


3 Easy Ways to Improve Patient Reviews

When prospective patients see that you have a negative review, they don’t usually pay attention to why—even though it’s often unrelated to the care they received. Improve your patient’s experience with some quick fixes for patient satisfaction.

1. Acknowledge long wait times. When running behind, don’t ignore it. Starting with a long wait makes patients more critical about things that wouldn’t usually bother them. Apologize genuinely and keep them engaged. You can turn a bad situation into a positive experience by keeping your patients informed and offering them something to drink while they wait.

2. Eliminate chaos. Patients want to feel like your top priority, which means giving them attention without distraction. Provide tools for office efficiency, and always have one person dedicated to in-office patient engagement.

3. Make a good first impression. Office appeal packs a big punch. Decorate! Create ambiance with a style that represents your personality and speaks to your patients.

  • Transform dingy buildings by painting regularly, replacing carpet, and swapping out doorknobs and blinds.
  • Set out a tray with a pitcher of water, fresh flowers, and cookies.
  • Buy comfortable chairs and a nice television.
  • Create a space for children with toys and books. You may even want to mount an iPad® in the corner and allow your patients to access a host of websites.

When you do see negative patient reviews, respond positively. They’ll care more about your effort to make things right than they do about the bad rating itself.

Enhancing the Patient Experience – Is EHR Really Necessary?

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

There’s a lot of noise and disagreement about electronic health records (EHR) right now. For some it may seem like there is no end in sight. For others, this is not as big a deal as some are making it out to be.

Read the four key things that a certified EHR can help you do to improve your business and enhance patient care.

Read full article republished with permission from Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News.

Use Your Website to Increase and Retain Your Customer Base

SuccessHave you thought about which features of your website are the most attractive to your patients? Having a website provides your practice with the most effective way to be available to your clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Connect with a wider audience: Nearly 80% of Americans use the Internet. Every day, people turn online to search for solutions your business offers. Let your practice be one of the first sites they see when looking for eyecare. Don’t miss out on new customers.

Make it easy for customers to reach you. Customers can easily access information about your business such as services provided, location, and phone number.

Reach customers with cost-effective and versatile marketing. A website is a great tool to improve customer relations through communication, support, and brand awareness. Your own website allows you to control your own content, advertisements, and promotions and allows you versatility with your marketing tactics. Want to run a last minute promotion on frames? You can quickly update the content on your website to keep your customers up-to-date on special offers. Interested in more practice enhancing tips? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Three Things About Meaningful Use That Will Affect Your Practice

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Do you know the three conditions that will make a difference on how meaningful use benefits your practice and your patients? Read more in this article by Steve Baker, president of Eyefinity.