Don’t Waste the Meaningful Use Crisis

Written by on October 31, 2012 in Research & Technology - No comments
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” – Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago

Fact: at no other time in human history has $30B been dedicated to drive the use of a software application! The electronic health record (EHR) Meaningful Use (MU) program is exactly this, but it also conjures up images of an organizational “crisis” of epic proportions.  It’s one thing to install an EHR system, but another matter to drive on-going proper and efficient usage of it.

Provider organizations can use the crisis of needing to achieve MU to transform their organizations in ways that would otherwise be very difficult in normal times.  It should not only be about the MU incentive dollars.

Visionary organizations see that enabling MU naturally encompasses workflow, system, and role changes that can reduce errors, increase efficiency, and increase patient engagement, not just garner incentive dollars.  It’s not often that a crisis of this magnitude emerges that can move mountains within previously slow-to-move organizations of all shapes and sizes.  In this respect, we have seen numerous successful examples.

For instance, practices are beginning to use MU clinical quality measures to drive real behavior change among their providers, even though MU does not yet set minimum thresholds on those measures.  Organizations such as Advocate Physician Partners are driving greater clinical integration with their 3,900 physicians by making EHR adoption and ultimately Meaningful Use a minimum requirement for participation in their network. To handle patient visits efficiently while achieving MU, practices are offloading certain MU documentation tasks, and thereby the associated clinical tasks, from doctors to other clinical staff who are actually better suited to perform those tasks.  The list goes on and on.

We have also discovered that these visionary organizations share a common attribute: the realization that driving MU is truly a journey-without-end that delivers on-going direct and collateral benefits. Such organizations have Stage 2 and Stage 3 MU achievement built into their strategic plans for the rest of the decade.  They have created on-going staff  roles and infrastructure to stay MU compliant on an annual basis to avoid the up-to-5% Medicare reimbursement penalty starting in 2015.  They also realize that private payers, such as Humana and Aetna, have added MU compliance as a minimum requirement for pay-for-performance programs and will drive MU compliance more broadly to measure quality, a requirement for healthcare reform’s shift towards pay for quality.

Practices looking to become acquired are aware that acquirers are increasingly using a practice’s on-going level of MU achievement as an input into valuing the worth of the practice.  Health systems are building MU compliance into their staff compensation plans and are instituting processes to enable providers new to the system to achieve MU as quickly as possible, then stay compliant as the standards are raised.

MU is a catalyst to setting an organization on a never-ending journey towards quality and efficiency improvements that otherwise would be difficult to start.  Furthermore, strong external forces are making MU an on-going organizational initiative that is critical to staying competitive in light of health reform, no matter which political party is in charge.  Incentive dollars are a good reason to start, but not also striving to reap the broader and perpetual benefits of MU risks letting the crisis go to waste.

By Tom S. Lee, Ph.D., MBA, CEO & Founder, SA Ignite

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