A strong business case is only part of MU program, physician says

By Diana Manos
10:42 AM

For one imaging group, a check for $216,000 in incentives for adopting electronic health records was only part of the motivational picture.

Regional Medical Imaging (RMI), based in Flint, Mich., received $216,000 in incentives for compliance with Stage 1 of meaningful use last spring, and according to Randy Hicks, MD, CEO of Regional Medical Imaging, the payment represented approximately one-third of the total incentives they expect to receive under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

[See also: MU plays role in physician jump in e-prescribing.]                                                                     

“For RMI, there is a strong business case for meaningful use, but what’s more important is that this is going to help us become better physicians so that our patients get better care,” said Hicks. “With [our EHR system] Merge RIS we’ll witness better and more prompt access to medical records, less redundant testing and ultimately fewer medical errors across our five locations in Michigan.”

“And while we were early adopters of MU, we knew it was about more than just collecting and reporting on data,” Hicks said. “It’s about building an infrastructure that will enable continuity of care and a seamless transfer of patient information.”

“Regional Medical Imaging is an organization that is doing what it takes to move healthcare forward,” said Jeff Surges, CEO of Merge Healthcare, provider of the system used by RMI. “They are pioneers who very early on realized Meaningful Use does apply to radiology and that there is inherent value that comes from adopting a meaningful use strategy.  More importantly, RMI took the necessary steps to achieve it.”

Hicks said RMI was one of the first Merge clients to receive a stimulus check from the government. 

In a Q&A with Healthcare IT News, Hicks had this to offer:

Q: What is your perspective on going through the process to achieve meaningful use compliance?

A: We had no real clear pathway, but we did have a passion to be one of the first to achieve meaningful use, because we have always had this vision that healthcare is behind in its use of IT. We have amazing technology for imaging patients, but when it comes to communicating or getting patients access to their own data, things have been difficult in the past. Health IT has always been a local emphasis, but when the federal government began talking about healthcare IT, we began to have a new level of hope. In the end, this is all good. We are finally beginning to see the industry longing for the change.

Q: You have said that the MU program is an evolution toward "the liberation of information." Can you expound on that?

A: As patients begin to gain more access their health information, the whole industry will start to blossom with things we haven’t thought of yet. Currently, doctors spend a lot of time, energy and money chasing data. The liberation of information will allow people to have interest in their own care, and it may improve the way they take care of themselves. The liberation has begun, and will continue to march through this decade. One day, we will look back and laugh at how things were in 2012.

[See also: Commentary: 5 points congressmen missed in call to end MU.]

Q: What are some of the challenges still ahead?

A: The most important thing, now, is to get the software in place, but ultimately, this whole thing needs connectivity. We need to chart a course to exchanging data seamlessly. With that comes lots of responsibility. There are still privacy issues ahead. There may be a national outcry, but at the end of the day, care will be much better.