Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Do You Need to Attain Meaningful Use by December 31, 2013?

The final rule for Stage 2 Meaningful Use (MU) presents a number of strategic challenges for practices that are attaining Meaningful Use and places those practices that will not meet Meaningful Use at a significant disadvantage.

In order to avoid such problems, practices need to attain Meaningful Use by December 31, 2013 to facilitate meeting Stage 2 of Meaningful Use in 2014.  This is not a requirement of the EHR incentive program but rather a competitive issue that all practices will be facing.
The key problem is that Stage 2 Meaningful Use includes measures that will raise the level of engagement with patients and other healthcare providers through the EHR.  If your practice has not attained Meaningful Use, you will be competing against other health care organizations that offer more communication options to their patients and will be able to exchange electronic referrals.

Patient Communication Options –

A new Stage 2 Core (Required) Measure requires secured messaging with patients.  Secured communications with patients will typically be through a patient portal.  The patient portal also offers a variety of other opportunities to interact with and serve your patients (See Patient Portal Blog Post). 

Combined with other Meaningful Use measures such as making electronic medical information available to patients, delivering patient education and sending reminders to patients, patient portals use will become a basic expectation of patients who want easy access to their information and options to interact with your practice.

Patient portals require planning and design of the portal itself, and workflow to support interactions through the patient portal.  However, many practices have found a more challenging problem getting patients to use the portal.  As a practical matter, you have to educate your patients on the use and benefits of the patient portal.  Practices that wait to establish their patient portal may find themselves facing a difficult task driving patient activity to the portal that is also a requirement of the Stage 2 Measures.  For example, Stage 2 requires 5% of patient to exchange messages with the practice.

Electronic Referrals –

The Stage 2 Transition of Care Measure will be particularly problematic for specialists that do not attain MU.  The Stage 1 MU Menu Measure for Transition of Care merely requires the referring provider to print a Transition of Care document to be sent to the specialist or other care setting. 

Stage 2 requires that the eligible provider send 10% of their Transition of Care records electronically.  In other words, primary care providers (the focus of the MU program) who meet Stage 2 of MU will be sending electronic Transitions of Care to other providers who have attained MU.  If a specialist is not able to support MU, they may be unable to receive their transitions of care.

Assuming that the referring practice meets the minimum 10% Electronic Transition of Care, then only 10% of referrals are at risk.  However, if the electronic method is easier, cheaper, and/or more effective that printing and faxing the Transition of Care document, then practices should not be surprised that referring sources will seek to send more than 10%, or perhaps all of their referrals electronically.

Both of these initiatives will be pursued by Eligible Providers who achieve MU in 2011, and 2012, to support Meaningful Use Stage 2 in 2014.  If other practices want to provide the same options to patients or be able to exchange transition of care records, then you need to pursue Meaningful Use by the end of 2013 to make sure that you are ready to strategically pursue Stage 2 in 2014 to better serve your patients and work with incoming and/or outgoing Transitions of Care. 

For additional strategies to attain MU, click here.

To analyze, plan and design a results oriented Meaningful Use strategy for 2013 and beyond, contact Sterling Solutions at (800)967-3028 or click here.

(c) Sterling Solutions, 2012

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