Meaningful Use and 2015, what lies ahead?

January 14, 2015 Lisa Fitzpatrick

Now that 2015 is upon us, it's a good time to take a moment to look back and reflect on the past years performance. Within the healthcare industry, 2014 was a particularly challenging year as more hospitals and eligible physicians struggled to meet the Meaningful Use(MU) Stage 2 requirements. Although it sounds fairly simple—start using data, start moving data and start reporting data—only 17% of Hospitals across the United States have met these MU Stage 2 requirements, according to the latest CMS data released in November 2014. Hospitals and eligible physician offices have a lot of work to do in the coming years if they want to benefit from any financial incentives and avoid any disincentives - as authorized by the U.S. government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) in 2009. These two regulations are also commonly known as the “Stimulus Act” or the “Meaningful Use of Health Information Technology”.

Given the disappointing adoption of MU Stage 2, it should be considered that the requirements set for 2012-present may be too aggressive. When we look at MU Stage 1, implemented in 2010-12, hospitals had a much higher success rate. The primary requirement for Stage 1 was to purchase and adopt a Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT). The number of hospitals and doctor’s offices with functioning EHRs increased from 10 percent in 2008 to 70 percent today. This is an incredible acceleration in what was a slow moving adoption of Healthcare IT before 2008. However, once the EHRs have been implemented, it appears as though most hospitals revert back to their regular glacial pace of change as they struggle to achieve the next requirements set in MU Stage 2. This is the status quo for over 80% of hospitals, critical access hospitals and eligible physician offices across the United States.

MU Stage 2 requirements at a high level, consists of capturing data within the EHRs, moving data between disparate systems and reporting data to CMS and other State Reporting bodies. These requirements are certainly more challenging and detailed but they are a critical second step to the overall progression towards modern healthcare. Without the proper use of electronic health records, the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery cannot be improved. Allowing data from EHRs to be transferred between different departments and facilities will improve healthcare operations, workflows and services tremendously. Being able to access a patient’s data electronically, in real time, at the time of care will improve the accuracy of diagnoses and health outcomes, improve care coordination and increase practice efficiencies and cost savings. On top of all these obvious benefits, once hospitals and eligible physicians have demonstrated that they are meaningfully using their EHRs and meeting all the requirements in MU Stage 2, they can receive an EHR incentive payment.

However, most of these benefits are still fancy bells and whistles that 80% of hospitals have yet to achieve. In order to avoid any financial penalties as authorized by the HITECH Act, hospitals are going to have to work even harder in the coming year to support these demands for EHR interoperability and increased health information exchange. Aside from the basic EHR patient data collection capabilities, hospitals will need to focus more on sharing patient data electronically across organizational, vendor and geographic boundaries. In one word – Interoperability! This refers to the ability of two or more IT systems or components to exchange information and use exchanged information. Once hospitals have achieved a certain level of EHR interoperability, the data will be their oyster! They can use their increased amount of data collected to endlessly track and trend for both internal process improvement purposes and for external reporting purposes.

When hospitals and healthcare organizations are ready to take on this challenge and take their patient safety initiatives to the next level, RL Solutions will be here to help. Our RL6 Patient Safety Suite seamlessly integrates with every EHR and ADT system to import patient demographic information and visit details into our application. We recognize that each of our clients is unique and as such our software is extremely flexible and configurable so that it can be molded to fit any organizations taxonomy and integrate with other IT systems. Together, we are all living in a very exciting and growing modern era of Health IT. As 2015 approaches, we should all embrace the buzzword Interoperability, and work together towards the development of a truly connected health system.

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