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Most Hospitals Offer Patients Online Access To Medical Records

Posted on July 27, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

New research from the American Hospital Association suggests that nearly all hospitals now offer individual patients online access to their medical records, and most offer them the ability to perform related tasks as well.

According to AHA research, 92% of hospitals gave patients access to their medical records in 2015, up from 43% in 2013. Also, 84% allowed them to download information from the record, 78% let them request changes to their record and 70% made it possible for them to send a referral summary. (The latter has seen the biggest change since 2013, as only 13% could send such a summary at that time.)

In addition, hospitals have begun giving patients the ability to schedule appointments, order prescription refills and pay bills. As the AHA notes, progress on this front isn’t universal, as organizations need to integrate data from revenue cycle, pharmacy and scheduling systems to make it happen. But as hospitals invest in integration engines they will have a greater ability to roll out these options.

As of 2015, 74% of hospitals let patients pay bills online, up from 56% in 2013. However, progress on other consumer-friendly functions has been slower. Only 45% of hospitals let patients schedule appointments online, a modest increase from 31% in 2013, and just 44% let patients refill prescriptions, up from 30% in 2013.

Meanwhile, hospitals are slowly but surely expanding tools letting patients communicate with physicians. The AHA found that 63% let patients securely message care providers, up from 55% in 2014, and 37% let patients submit self-generated data, a big jump from the 14% who did so in 2013.

All of this suggests that rollouts of patient portal tools are likely to continue well after Meaningful Use has landed in the dustbin. After all, research suggests that dollars spent on these technologies will pay off, especially under at-risk value-based care models.

For example, an eye-opening study appearing in Health Affairs found that use of patient-physician email at Kaiser Permanente is associated with a 2% to 6.5% improvement in HEDIS performance measures like HbA1c levels, cholesterol and blood press screening and control. The same study noted that users of its My Health Manager were 2.6 times more likely to remain KP members than non-users, a phenomenon which may well apply to providers.

On the other hand, hospitals need to evaluate any potential portal solutions carefully. According to a study by research firm Peer60, many solutions have serious limitations that could lead providers to violate state laws or limit parent and minor engagement. Also, some organizations might not be ready to support patients who have issues adequately. Concerns like these might explain why 28% of the 200 healthcare execs surveyed by Peer60 said they weren’t looking at portal technology at the moment.

$34.7 Billion Spent on Meaningful Use

Posted on July 8, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

CMS has put out the latest data on meaningful use participation and payments. They broke the Medicare dollars out by meaningful use stage 1 and stage 2. Meaningful use stage 1 cost nearly $20 billion. Meaningful use stage 2 cost $3.4 billion. The amounts were less for stage 2, but that’s still a massive drop off.

Less than half of eligible providers participated in stage 2 that participated in stage 1 (308k compared to 145k). Participating hospitals dropped from 4600 hospitals to 3096. This illustrates well what we’ve been saying for a while as far as hospitals still largely participating in meaningful use and most doctors choosing not to participate.

Also interesting to note is that at its peak, meaningful use was paying about $10 billion per year. In 2015, they spent $2.8 billion.

What I didn’t see in this report was any numbers on the cost savings that the meaningful use program provided. All the OIG estimates for meaningful use talked about how much money would be spent, but they also calculated how much money would be saved as well. As I recall they estimated about $36 billion in spending, but about $16 billion in savings. That would put the cost of the meaningful use program at $20 billion instead of the full $36 billion which it looks like we’ve now pretty much spent.

I like that HHS puts out this accountability as far as where the meaningful use money was spent. Shouldn’t we have some accountability as far as the savings as well? Do they not have a way to calculate it? Are they afraid that there weren’t cost savings? Or that meaningful use actually added costs? Maybe it’s in another report and I just missed it. If you know of that other report, I’d love to see it.

What do you think of these numbers? What’s been the benefit of the $34.7 billion that’s been spent? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Data Sharing Largely Isn’t Informing Hospital Clinical Decisions

Posted on July 6, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Some new data released by ONC suggests that while healthcare data is being shared far more frequently between hospitals than in the past, few hospital clinicians use such data regularly as part of providing patient care.

The ONC report, which is based on a supplement to the 2015 edition of an annual survey by the American Hospital Association, concluded that 96% of hospitals had an EHR in place which was federally tested and certified for the Meaningful Use program. That’s an enormous leap from 2009, the year federal economic stimulus law creating the program was signed, when only 12.2% of hospitals had even a basic EHR in place.

Also, hospitals have improved dramatically in their ability to share data with other facilities outside their system, according to an AHA article from February. While just 22% of hospitals shared data with peer facilities in 2011, that number had shot up to 57% in 2014. Also, the share of hospitals exchanging data with ambulatory care providers outside the system climbed from 37% to 60% during the same period.

On the other hand, hospitals are not meeting federal goals for data use, particularly the use of data not created within their institution. While 82% of hospitals shared lab results, radiology reports, clinical care summaries or medication lists with hospitals or ambulatory care centers outside of their orbit — up from 45% in 2009 — the date isn’t having as much of an impact as it could.

Only 18% of those surveyed by the AHA said that hospital clinicians often used patient information gathered electronically from outside sources. Another 35% reported that clinicians used such information “sometimes,” 20% used it “rarely” and 16% “never” used such data. (The remaining 11% said that they didn’t know how such data was used.)

So what’s holding hospital clinicians back? More than half of AHA respondents (53%) said that the biggest barrier to using interoperable data integrating that data into physician routines. They noted that since shared information usually wasn’t available to clinicians in their EHRs, they had to go out of the regular workflows to review the data.

Another major barrier, cited by 45% of survey respondents, was difficulty integrating exchange information into their EHR. According to the AHA survey, only 4 in 10 hospitals had the ability to integrate data into their EHRs without manual data entry.

Other problems with clinician use of shared data concluded that information was not always available when needed (40%), that it wasn’t presented in a useful format (29%) and that clinicians did not trust the accuracy of the information (11%). Also, 31% of survey respondents said that many recipients of care summaries felt that the data itself was not useful, up from 26% in 2014.

What’s more, some technical problems in sharing data between EHRs seem to have gotten slightly worse between the 2014 and 2015 surveys. For example, 24% of respondents the 2014 survey said that matching or identifying patients was a concern in data exchange. That number jumped to 33% in the 2015 results.

By the way, you might want to check out this related chart, which suggests that paper-based data exchange remains wildly popular. Given the challenges that still exist in sharing such data digitally, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

The Cost of Encouraging Patient Engagement

Posted on June 15, 2016 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

We all know that healthcare providers want to encourage patient engagement to ensure patients have the information they need to manage conditions and share information with other providers. There has been a longstanding push for the adoption and maintenance of personal health records for many years to give patients the power to share and disseminate information wherever it is needed. We have seen a remarkable new interest in this with Meaningful Use and population health initiatives. Since HIM professionals are charged with maintaining and producing legal copies of records, we are aware that the tasks surrounding these processes can be very expensive. This is especially true if any of the tasks are not handled properly and breaches of protected information occur.

My concern is that lately I have heard many discussions that are pushing for more access yet with fewer costs to patients to encourage patient engagement. Some are even pushing for patients to have “free” access to records- paper or electronic. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent for patients having copies of their records and I personally keep copies of my own records. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently published further guidance on charging for records. In a nutshell, the OCR says: “copying fees should be reasonable. They may include the cost of labor for creating and delivering electronic or paper copies; the cost of supplies, including paper and portable media such as CDs or USB drives; and the cost of postage when copies of records are mailed to patients at their request.” The OCR actually has the authority to audit the costs of producing records if they feel your organization is violating this patient right and overcharging for release of information.

Living in a state such as Florida where the state law has allowed facilities to charge up to $1 per page means most facilities have charged $1 per page without blinking an eye. The latest OCR guidance has led to questioning if that amount is actually “reasonable” or true to cost. Afterall, HIM professionals must use expensive systems, supplies, and labor costs to produce these records. Many organizations have outsourced release of information functions (another cost) but it is still the responsibility of the custodian of records to oversee the processes for compliance.

That being said, it is beneficial for HIM departments to evaluate the expenses and methods used to produce records as technologies and laws change. Dr. Karen Desalvo of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) strives to lead the EMR interoperability movement. At the top of the ONC’s list of commitments is consumer access to records. HIM professionals should continue to assist in the quest for interoperability and electronic data sharing at the notion of patient engagement. We must lead patients to use EMR patient portals and facilitate the efficient electronic data sharing among healthcare providers. We must be creative in lowering overhead costs to produce and maintain the records in order to ensure costs are affordable for healthcare consumers. There will always be costs associated with this important task, whether on the provider’s end or the patient’s end, just as costs are incurred with most services or products in every industry.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

EMR Replacement Frenzy Has Major Downsides

Posted on May 16, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Now that they’ve gotten an EMR in shape to collect Meaningful Use payouts, hospitals are examining what those incentive bucks have gotten them. And apparently, many aren’t happy with what they see. In fact, it looks like a substantial number of hospitals are ripping and replacing existing EMRs with yet another massive system.

But if they thought that the latest forklift upgrade would be the charm, many were wrong. A new study by Black Book Research suggests that in the frenzy to replace their current EMR, many hospitals aren’t getting what they thought they were getting. In fact, things seem to be going horribly wrong.

Black Book recently surveyed 1,204 hospital executives and 2,133 user-level IT staffers that had been through at least one large EMR system switch to see if they were happy with the outcome. The results suggest that many of these system switches have been quite a disappointment.

According to researchers, hospitals doing new EMR implementations have encountered a host of troubles, including higher-than-expected costs, layoffs, declining inpatient revenues and frustrated clinicians. In fact, hospitals went in to these upgrades knowing that they would not be back to their pre-EMR implementation patient volumes for at least another five years, but in some cases it seems that they haven’t even been keeping up with that pace.

Fourteen percent of all hospitals that replaced their original EMR since 2011 were losing inpatient revenue at a pace that would not support the total cost of the replacement EMR, Black Book found. And 87% of financially threatened hospitals now regret the executive decision to change systems.

Some metrics differed significantly depending on whether the respondent was an executive or a staff member.

For example, 62% of non-managerial IT staffers reported that there was a significantly negative impact on healthcare delivery directly attributable to an EMR replacement initiative. And 90% of nurses said that the EMR process changes diminished their ability to deliver hands-on care at the same effectiveness level. In a striking contrast, only 5% of hospital leaders felt the impacted care negatively.

Other concerns resonated more with executives and staff-level respondents. Take job security. While 63% of executive-level respondents noted that they, or their peers, felt that their employment was in jeopardy to the EMR replacement process, only 19% of respondents said EMR switches resulted in intermittent or permanent staff layoffs.

Meanwhile, there seemed to be broad agreement regarding interoperability problems. Sixty-six percent of system users told Black Book that interoperability and patient data exchange functions got worse after EMR replacements.

What’s more, hospital leaders often haven’t succeeded in buying the loyalty of clinicians by going with a fashionable vendor. According to Black Book, 78% of nonphysician executives surveyed admitted that they were disappointed by the level of clinician buy-in after the replacement EMR was launched. In fact, 88% of hospitals with replacement EMRs weren’t aware of gaining any competitive advantage in attracting doctors with their new system.

Now, we all know that once a tactic such as EMR replacement reaches a tipping point, it gains momentum of its own. So even if they read this story, my guess is that hospital executives planning an EMR switch will assume their rollout will beat the odds. But if it doesn’t, they can’t say they weren’t warned!

What Does Health Informatics Mean to You?

Posted on March 23, 2016 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in a great discussion about health informatics and what it actually entails. This wasn’t the first time I have been involved in this type of discussion as informatics has been a buzzword in healthcare for several years now. Since no two organizations are structured exactly the same, Informatics can mean different things to different people.

For me, I have seen informatics in practice as those roles involved in building and optimizing the electronic medical record (EMR) and clinical workflows. Informatics professionals ensure data is being collected appropriately so that it can be used for further healthcare decision making and operations. This was a daunting new task several years ago when Meaningful Use first came into play. I remember many articles and statistical reports stating there was a major shortage of IT professionals who were going to be needed to help organizations meet Meaningful Use criteria and perform the role of health informatics.

I do not see informaticists as being confined to any particular department of a healthcare organization but rather they are professionals that are skilled in applying technological and data science techniques to healthcare practices. I have seen many roles such as IT, HIM, and licensed clinical professionals take on informatics responsibilities to address the needs of the changing healthcare environment. Informatics needs the collaboration of these different skillsets to bridge the gap between the technology and healthcare consumer outcomes using data and research.

When we start to look at informatics as it relates to healthcare research methodologies, I believe this is where informatics starts to split off into a more refined usage of data. This goes beyond the EMR workflow optimization and into the realm of using the data to build registries, look at cause and effect relationships, and review patterns and trends in healthcare treatment and outcomes. Since most of us healthcare professionals are at different stages of EMR implementation and optimization, there are some early adopters testing the waters and beginning to understand the value of all of the healthcare data that has become readily available. I am excited to see what the future holds for health informatics and how these tasks will be aligned with the HIM professional’s skillset.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

Healthcare Interoperability

Posted on February 18, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

UPDATE: In case you missed our discussion, you can watch the video recording below:

Healthcare Interoperability-blog

One of the hottest topics in all of healthcare is the concept of healthcare interoperability. I remember when Farzad Mostashari said that he would use every lever he had at his disposal to make healthcare interoperability happen. Karen DeSalvo and Andy Slavitt have carried on that tradition and really wants to make interoperability of health data a reality in healthcare. However, it’s certainly not without it’s challenges.

With this challenge in mind, on Monday, February 22, 2016 at Noon ET (9 AM PT), I’ll be sitting down with two of the biggest healthcare intoperability nerds I know (I say that with a ton of affection since I love nerds) to talk about the topic. Here’s a little more info on the healthcare interoperability panel we’ll be having:

You can join our live conversation with Mario and Richard and even add your own comments to the discussion or ask them questions. All you need to do to watch live is visit this blog post on Monday, February 22, 2016 at Noon ET (9 AM PT) and watch the video embed at the bottom of the post or you can subscribe to the blab directly. We’ll be doing a more formal interview for the first 30 minutes and then open up the Blab to others who want to add to the conversation or ask us questions. The conversation will be recorded as well and available on this post after the interview.

In this discussion we’ll dive into the always popular FHIR standard and its potential to achieve “scalable interoperability” in health care. We’ll talk about FHIR’s weaknesses and challenges. Then, we’ll dive into health care interoperability testing and the recently announced AEGIS Touchstone Test platform and how it differs from other interoperability testing that’s being done today. We’ll talk about who’s paying for interoperability testing and where this is all headed in the future.

If you’d like to see the archives of Healthcare Scene’s past interviews, you can find and subscribe to all of Healthcare Scene’s interviews on YouTube.

EHR, What’s Next?

Posted on February 1, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

UPDATE: Here’s the YouTube video recording of my chat with Dana Sellers:

EHR Whats Next with Dana Sellers

With the announcement that meaningful use is going to be replaced (Not to be confused with meaningful use is dead like many claimed.) along with a maturing of the EHR market, I thought it might be time to ask the question, EHR, what’s next? This discussion should include how to better leverage your current EHR investment, but also look at what other investments organizations should be making to get the most out of everything that’s happening in healthcare IT. On Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM ET (8:30 AM PT), I’ll be sitting down with Dana Sellers, CEO of Encore, A Quintiles Company to talk over what’s next for EHR and healthcare IT.

You can join my live conversation with Dana Sellers and even add your own comments to the discussion or ask Dana questions. All you need to do to watch live is visit this blog post on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM ET (8:30 AM PT) and watch the video embed at the bottom of the post or you can subscribe to the blab directly. We’ll be doing a more formal interview for the first 30 minutes and then open up the Blab to others who want to add to the conversation or ask us questions. The conversation will be recorded as well and available on this post after the interview.

With an amazing depth of experience, Dana’s been through a wide variety of healthcare IT cycles. I can’t wait to hear Dana’s thoughts on what’s going to happen with meaningful use, how can healthcare organizations better leverage their EHR investment, where are we really seeing analytics and other buzzword worthy terms breaking through, and what other technologies are on the horizon that will improve healthcare? Please join us Thursday and share your experience as well.

If you’d like to see the archives of Healthcare Scene’s past interviews, you can find and subscribe to all of Healthcare Scene’s interviews on YouTube.

HCA Builds Capacity For Resilience Into EMR Rollout Training

Posted on January 1, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A few weeks ago, Hospital Corporation of America had a rather substantial EMR outage. The outage, which was caused by a problem with storage hardware, lasted about 24 hours. It largely affected a portion of the 50 hospitals it operates in Florida, but some of the 115 HCA hospitals located outside Florida were impacted too.

Though large EMR outages are worth noting, my purpose in writing this blog is not to slam HCA. Actually, HCA staffers seem to have been prepared for the worst. In fact, according to an article from the Healthcare Financial Management Association, HCA built resiliency into its EMR rollout and operations process. And that is interesting indeed.

Hiring for talent and attitude

To roll out an EMR across its large network of hospitals, HCA leaders settled on an unusual strategy.  Rather than sign up a cadre of pure HIT specialists, HCA decided to hire professionals across a wide variety of disciplines.

As it turned out, all of the 120 EMR implementation specialists it hired were under age 30, with strong organizing, communication and collaborative skills. Their degrees included English, marketing and biomedical science.

Training for rollout

To train the newly-blessed specialists, HCA created hCare University. The new team members got four to six weeks of training, including both hands-on and classroom education, in vital skills such as working with clinicians and managing projects.

hCare University also taught the implementation specialists HCA’s EMR methodology, refining the approach — and how it taught that approach — over time. HCA trialed its methods at one pilot hospital, then two more, and eventually rolled it out to 20 to 40 hospitals at a time, HFMA reports.

Stressing inclusiveness and communication

As the rollout progressed, hCare teachers and system leaders continued to hammer home the importance of effective communication — and just as importantly, making sure that clinicians felt included.

“We probably spent as much, if not more, time on the people aspects as on the technology,” said consultant Mary Mirabelli, who oversaw the rollout, as well as HCA’s Stage 1 Meaningful Use efforts. “Because you’re expecting clinicians to exhibit new behaviors and embrace a system that is sometimes not well designed for their needs, you have to figure out ways to give them control and involve them in decision making.”

Now, I admit to being a bit biased, as I’m the kind of liberal arts jack-of-all-trades HCA relied on to supervise its rollout. And I want to emphasize that I’m not suggesting that traditional HIT hires are per-se inflexible!

That being said (having declared my prejudices), I would tend to believe that HCA is telling the truth when it asserts that staff confidently worked around the outage, despite its length and breadth.  I would assert that mixing in people whose primary skills are “soft” with HIT pros is an excellent way to support a resilient attitude when EMR problelms emerge.

Investing in people who can coordinate with all sides is actually good for HIT staffers. After all, doesn’t it benefit the HIT department when other folks are out there building good will, fostering cooperation and (in hopefully rare cases) minimizing damage to morale when snags or outages occur?

Maybe It’s Time To Phase Out The Meaningful Use Program

Posted on December 29, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Since Stage 1 of the Meaningful Use incentive program kicked off in 2011, the level of health IT adoption has risen dramatically across the United States. As publicly-funded programs go, it’s had quite a ride.

A few years in, nearly 97% of U.S. hospitals had achieved Stage 1 or higher of the HIMSS EMR Adoption model (as of Q1 2015). And a plurality (roughly 57%) were at Stage 5 or higher.

Meanwhile, 83% of office-based doctors are now using EMRs, according to a recent report from ONC.  The percentage drops to 74% when counting only physicians using certified EMRs, but that’s still a very substantial increase over the 57% of office-based docs using EMRs in 2011.

Whether this progress was worth the $28.1 billion paid out (as of December 2014) is anyone’s guess, but clearly, the program had a huge impact. In fact, it’s hard to argue that MU payments helped to trigger a major change in how medicine is practiced.

That being said, some critics are floating the idea that it’s time to retire Meaningful Use, or at minimum, pull back its implementation dramatically. For example, HIT superstar John Halamka contends that Meaningful Use programs “have served their purpose.”

In his blog, Halamka — who serves as CIO of both the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — suggests that Stage 3 of MU is little more than a multi-train pile-up (the following quote is long but deserves to be read in full):

 Stage 3 makes many of the same mistakes as Stage 2, trying to do too much too soon. It requires patient accessible Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) without specifying any standards.   It requires sending discharge e-prescriptions although pharmacies cannot widely support the cancel transaction that is essential to discharge medication management workflow.   It requires public health transactions but CMS has no authority to require public health authorities to standardize the way they receive data.

Clinicians cannot get through a 12 minute visit, enter the necessary Stage 3 data elements, reconcile problems/allergies/medications from multiple institutions, meet the demands of the  Stage 3 clinical quality measures, make eye contact with patients, and deliver safe medical care.

Having read the above, you won’t be surprised to learn that elsewhere, Halamka argues that Stage 3 of Meaningful Use should be dropped completely. Instead, he’d like to see the government offer merit-based rewards for positive outcomes and innovative approaches.

While Halamka’s arguments make a lot of sense, another group of people want to address the fact that the Meaningful Use program incentives have never been available to most mental health providers. As readers may know, mental health facilities such as psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities currently aren’t eligible for Medicaid and Medicare MU incentives. Also, front-line mental health professionals such as psychologists and licensed social workers are not included in the current definition of “eligible professionals.”

A bill progressing through the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2646 (“Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015”) proposes to add clinical psychologists to the list of eligible professionals, and psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, residential or outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities to the list of eligible providers. While I’m not suggesting that Meaningful Use as currently structured is the only way to address the mental health industry’s HIT needs, those needs shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, John would argue that not being involved in meaningful use might be the best thing that happened to mental health EHR.

I’d agree that eliminating — or at minimum transforming — the existing Meaningful Use program may be a good idea. Better to try something new than drag providers through a wasteful, painful rout.