5 keys to conquering difficult meaningful use requirements
It's no surprise many physicians are finding it difficult to qualify for meaningful use incentives. In fact, according to Zubin Emsley, CEO of ChartLogic, the industry shouldn't be fooled by numbers, and needs to realize many physicians have a long way to go before they officially qualify.
"Between January 1st and May 1st of this year, 99,230 physicians had qualified for incentive payments under either Medicare or Medicaid," said Emsley. "Although this is a significant number, it represents less than 13 percent of the estimated 780,000 practicing physicians in the U.S."
Emsley outlines five keys to conquering difficult meaningful use requirements.
1. Require patients to self-report demographic data. A key requirement of the meaningful use program, said Emsley, is the collection of patient demographic data like gender, race, ethnicity, and preferred language. "Many practices, particularly specialists, haven't traditionally collected all of this information and entered it as structured data into the medical record," he said. "Asking patients to self-report is the most efficient path to compliance." Some physicians may be worried about asking patients to do this, he added, but, surprisingly, most patients are used to entering this type of information on forms as it is. "The most direct route is to provide patients with laptops, tablets, or kiosks in the waiting room to enter the information electronically."
[See also: Meaningful use criteria 'too high and too many'.]
2. Distribute clinical summaries via a patient portal. Meaningful use requirements require a physician’s office to provide clinical summaries to patients within three business days of the visit. "In many busy specialist practices, physicians may see 50 patients per day, making it difficult to complete all the documentation before the patient leaves the office," said Emsley. "To fulfill this requirement without a portal, practices may need to mail the patient a printed summary. Printing and postage costs make this a costly, stop-gap solution." When the practice installs a patient portal, he added, staff can more quickly upload the clinical summary to the website. "Note that it is not currently required that patients download or read the clinical summary, just that it be 'provided,' which is generally interpreted as having been sent electronically," he said.
3. Delegate vital sign collection, and consider digital monitors. Stage 1 meaningful use requirements compel practices to collect vital signs on each patient visit, said Emsley. This is another set of data many specialist practices – such as orthopedists and ophthalmologists – haven't generally collected. "It makes no sense for the physician to collect this information himself," he said. "The office workflow can be organized so that medical assistants collect the data." It may make sense to invest in a digital vital signs monitor, he added. "These machines can read weight, temperature and blood pressure and automatically upload it to the EHR, eliminating the need to input it with a keyboard."