Meaningful Use Technology Takes a Tip from TurboTax
Just over a month stands between us and April 15th – a day during which post offices around the country used to experience extended hours, record-breaking lines, and maybe more than a few frustrated customers. Easy-to-use software programs like TurboTax have changed Tax Day rituals, enabling filers to stay at home and avoid that last-minute dash for postage and shipment.
Similar, one-click technology is playing a part in reducing the frustrations of physicians and clinical staff working through the Meaningful Use attestation process. I first heard about SA Ignite’s MU Assistant electronic filing solution a few days before the HIMSS show when I came across a press release announcing the Illinois Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center’s (IL-HITREC’s) decision to partner with SA Ignite to fund the software. The release described it as “proprietary software that helps providers navigate the currently manual and time-intensive last mile of Meaningful Use.”
Intrigued, I tracked down the company’s founder and CEO, Tom Lee, at the Health IT Venture Fair, held a day before HIMSS’ official opening, to learn more about this new HIT tool that “helps monitor MU measures across different EHRs, and electronically files to Medicare and Medicaid attestation websites.”
What were you hearing from providers and RECs that led you to create a tool like this?
Tom Lee: Because we were an early player among the RECs as they were getting going, I was appointed by the ONC to the steering committee for Meaningful Use of all the RECs. By talking to a lot of these executive directors and getting to know the community at large, we saw there was a need for something like an advanced Meaningful Use dashboard that could really span different EHR products. The RECs were really the incubator for the idea of MU Assistant, ultimately becoming the equivalent of Turbo Tax once we added the electronic filing piece. So now it’s truly the only end-to-end way to audit the main Meaningful Use attestation process.
When did you come up with the idea, and how long did it take to bring to market?
We came up with the idea literally in a month or two. We actually created a free version of MU Assistant that was implemented using just Microsoft Excel, and we donated that to the extension center community. They provided a lot of feedback. We trained 60 staff at 15 extension centers to use the tool free of charge. They came back to us and said, ‘Look, we love your tool, but we really want it to be a Web-based product and to be scaleable.’ We basically developed this product very closely in tandem with the target customer base.
Does the MU Assistant work with any EHR?
Yes, it does, as long as it is certified for Meaningful Use. We don’t need the assistance of EHR vendors to help us do that. We work independently of them. Practically all certified EHRs have to calculate the raw numerators and denominators from the vendors, and so those outputs from the vendors’ reporting tools serve as inputs into our tool. That’s where our TurboTax equivalent takes over.