Surveyed hospitals not ready for ARRA deadline

By Kyle Hardy
10:50 AM

A CSC survey suggests that many hospitals and physician practices aren't ready to meet the terms of “meaningful use” of healthcare IT by 2015.

The Falls Church, Va.-based health IT company interviewed executives from 58 hospitals on the "meaningful use" provisions for federal stimulus financing included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The survey, “Are Hospitals Ready for Meaningful Use of EHRs?” was based on a group of HITECH indicators that include the use of a certified product, current use of capabilities required for meaningful use, standards adoption, quality management and reporting and privacy and security protection.

“The definition of ‘meaningful use’ is a very important step in the process of transforming healthcare with better information for better decisions,” said Deward Watts, president of CSC’s Healthcare Group. “In addition to getting substantial monetary rewards, meaningful use criteria will enable our nation’s hospitals to reap the full benefit of EHRs and provide the safest level of care while reducing costs of delivering, reporting and paying for care.”In the wake of the release of meaningful use, the study suggests that 66 percent of the hospitals surveyed have only taken the first step to identify gaps in their own information systems.

Erica Drazen, managing partner of the Healthcare Group at CSC, said if hospitals don’t meet the requirements by 2015, they’ll miss out on more than just money.

“Penalties will accrue in 2015 and it’s a reduction in Medicare payments,” said Drazen. “But they’ll miss out on the benefits of using an EHR system as well. And the financial penalties aren’t capped.”

The technology requirements of Stage 1 “meaningful use” eligibility include having a computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system in place enterprise-wide. According to the survey, only 8 percent had deployed a CPOE system.

Although most hospitals don’t have an enterprise-wide CPOE system in place, they do have the capabilities to support it, said Drazen.

“It’s a lot more than an IT process,” she said. “This means you have to get all the clinical staff on board. Providers need to have capabilities, order sets, physician cooperation and a process for maintaining the system. Standardizing the process is a huge challenge.”

The study suggest that providers have been making more progress in patient security than HIT adoption. Drazen said this wasn’t surprising, given the requirements laid down by HIPAA.

Drazen provided a list of objectives for hospitals to reach meaningful use:

  • Use certified HIT technology.
  • Implement CPOE.
  • Have clinical documentation system in place.
  • Solid clinical leadership.
  • Be up to date with the latest privacy and security measures.
  • Get going now.

The study also found that smaller providers aren't as prepared as larger providers.

“This has always been true,” said Drazen. “It’s because larger providers have more resources. The new regional resource centers are going to be focused on the smaller practices, and remote hosting – which has only recently been available – is more attractive for small practices. Loans are available as well. Some are looking for state help but are not likely to get it.”

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