Could EHRs be responsible for Meaningful Use dropout rate?

Over the last few months, there have been numerous surveys and analyses done which highlight that the rate for Meaningful Use attestation is dropping sharply. On the other hand, EHR software adoption is continuously on the rise. So there must be something wrong for some practices. What is causing the decline in the Meaningful Use attestation rate when EHR usage is on the rise?

A recent assessment of government data notes that 17 percent of hospitals who earned Meaningful Use incentives in 2011 could not earn the same in 2012. There could be many reasons for the dropout in rate. Difficulties in compliance to Meaningful Use or problems with the system as a whole could be a few. But another question which is of prime importance is whether the EHR systems are partially responsible for the dropout in Meaningful Use attestation rate?

A recent Black Book Rankings survey finds that nearly half of the physicians who are using EHR systems are not satisfied with their choice. Another 17 percent of the doctors plan to switch their current system because of various reasons. So could EHRs be blamed for dropout in Meaningful Use rate? The answer would be a hesitant yes.

Some of the reasons that the physicians are highlighting as reasons for changing their EHR systems are:

  1. EHR systems are not meeting the practice requirements. Either they contain too many features or way too less.
  2. Practices made a wrong choice of selecting their current EHR vendors and did not make the right choice.
  3. Current EHR systems in practices are generic and do not meet their specialty requirements.
  4. EHR vendors are not very supportive and the software itself suffers many breakdowns.
  5. EHR systems are not able to communicate adequately with other stakeholders in the industry.
  6. Current EHR systems are not going to meet ICD-10 or Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements.

These are some of the reasons why current EHRs might be to blame for the dropout in Meaningful Use rate. However, once the practices switch to better and more efficient systems, this is likely going to go back up.


15 Health benefits of smiling

A smile is free and it improves your health, your mood and helps in giving you a longer and healthier life. A fake smile involves fewer muscles while a genuine smile involves a greater number of muscles. To smile is very important because it creates a bond with the person who receives it.

1 – Smiles result in lower heart rates while relaxing the body. They can be healthy exercise for the heart and are known to reduce the blood pressure.

2 – Reduce Stress – Stress is a common problem in the modern world and causes a lot of physical and emotional problems. Smiling helps to release endorphins which help to reduce stress.

3 – Better Mood – The endorphins released through smiling lift your mood.

4 – Increase Productivity – It has been scientifically proven that smiling increase productivity and it very well explains that those silly internet memes and pictures of cute animals can actually make people happy.

5 – Encourage Trust – Smiling creates a certain level of trust between people. Trust is one of the main components of our social fabric, smiling in a social setup makes people not only happy, but creates trust in the individual who smiles.

6 – Produce Empathy – Smiling breaks ice and promotes leniency in what others think of us.

7 – Avoid Regret – We feel regret when we don’t smile, failing to do so, increases our stress level.

8 – Kill Pain – Smiling and laughter are natural painkillers and reduce our level of stress.

9 – Increase Attention – Smiling widens our attention span and helps us to multitask and gives insight about our perception and our subconscious.

10 – Contagious – 50% of the people smile back which creates a healthy atmosphere all around because smiling is famous for being contagious.

11 – Build Attraction – Smiling invites affection among people. Men approach women who smile not those who don’t.

12 – Earn Success – A smile can appear confident, self-assured, and it can help to earn more money.

13 – Look Younger – Scientific studies show that smiling makes the face look younger.

14 – Longevity – People who smile live 7 years longer than those who don’t smile.

15 – Boost Immune System – Smiling help the body relax allowing the immune system to relax.

EMR and Practice Management – Changing the Dynamics of Healthcare

The introduction of interoperable health IT solutions had a significant impact on the entire healthcare industry. All conventional rules of medical practice were modified and providers across all specialties strive to stay in business with the ever changing regulations and new health standards. The adoption of EMR in the healthcare sector was a game changer, as conventional methods of storing, retrieving and documenting clinical data became obsolete overnight. The potential benefits of EMR technology were the major reason behind the introduction of Meaningful Use incentives for providers – helping promote widespread adoption.

EMR adoption was on the rise, but so was the increase in provider specific requirements, often based on specialty and practice setting. It has taken a while for the physician community to fully utilize EMR technology, as initial EMR solutions were limited in functionality and usability. The rising patient volumes and pressure from insurance companies, and other regulatory bodies meant that physicians now needed to accomplish a lot more clinical documentation whilst complying with the administrative and security requirements. This led to the integration of EMR systems with Practice Management software. Standalone practice management solutions existed before the introduction of EMR technology, but with the advent of interoperable “all-in-one” solutions rendered such standalone systems redundant.

This meant that EMR vendors now focused on amalgamating their systems with practice management software to retain market share. For clinicians, the appeal of reduced hassle with the integration of practice management was a better option that ensured optimum financial and clinical performance. Subsequently, physicians could now focus on patient care without having to worry about increased office administration.

With the number of vendors rising by the day, EMR and Practice Management technology is rapidly evolving – with specialty specific EMR systems now making their presence felt. Healthcare professionals are no longer satisfied with basic EMR functionality and thus look for a solution that caters to their specialty specific clinical content and workflows. As the care continuum strives for improved clinical outcomes, it would require a great deal of effort from vendors and providers to help develop solutions that meet their specialty requirements.


Medical Billing – Comparing Both Sides of the Coin

While discussing the matter of medical billing in regards to any clinical practice, generally you come across two distinct opinions. Firstly, there are those who believe that the responsibility of maintaining financial workflows of a practice lies with the clinician, alongside managing other administrative and clinical aspects of the practice. On the contrary, there are physicians who believe in providing uncompromising patient care, which is why they prefer outsourcing their medical billing to an expert organization. It’s difficult to establish which option is better since both arguments have their inherent pros and cons. Let’s try to determine which option is a more viable strategy to implement within your practice.

The foremost argument for advocates of accommodating an in-house medical billing department is ‘why pay someone for a job that you can do on your own?’ One may regard this as a valid consideration due to the expense incurred by hiring an expert medical billing service. Everybody dislikes money going out of their pocket without an advantageous trade off; so the million dollar question arises, what gains are acquired from the transaction considering option number two?

Surveys and polls have elucidated that overall efficiency of a practice including the clinicians’ productivity have substantially increased once the billing processes have been outsourced to a specialized medical billing service.  The fundamental reasons for this phenomenon as cited by these surveys are improved revenue cycles and efficient claim management. A diminished number of rejected claims inevitably results in greater earnings for the practice.

“It’s a mystery why some physicians still opt to have in-house billing. This appears even more ludicrous viewing the exceptional positive impact that outsourcing to a medical billing service has on your practice’s finances. For those who consider their practice to be primarily a business, the argument of saving money by having in-house billing is flawed in my opinion. In comparison you spend more money in hiring trained professionals, or hiring novices and training them. Moreover, training your supplementary resources to perform these functions consumes valuable time. Your revenue cycles are unnecessarily extended and you do not have the resources at your disposal to process the maximum number of claims possible”, according to an Ohio based health IT consultant.

If you inspect closely whilst making a comparison, eventually both time and money are conserved if you outsource your medical billing to an expert and proficient medical billing service. Since a much larger number of claims are being processed, even a small percentage paid to a third party billing company eventually translates into a greater profit for your practice. Furthermore, since all financial responsibilities and intrinsic concerns are outsourced, it gives the physician more time on their hands to focus on their primary responsibility of ensuring delivery of quality care.  When all is said and done, the number of clinicians outsourcing their medical billing speaks volumes for its benefits. Specialist medical billing services are making a huge statement through their performance and paving the way for the future of healthcare industry at large.


EMR and Practice Management – Automation Realized

Consumer and business marketing has substantially developed in regards to the holistic value delivered by a product or service. Rationale is the underlying basis to adjudicate the purchase decision on any item under question. ‘Is it functional towards my needs?’, ‘How does it measure up to its competitors in the market in regards to quality?’, ‘Is it good value for money?’. These are the most common questions while determining a final choice. It would be fair to say that before finalizing any single prospect, a cost-benefit analysis is of the utmost importance.  The same holds true for physicians while implementing applications within their practice such as EMR and practice management.  Since software such as EMR and practice management are long term investments, it is all the more important to have an in depth analysis before coming to a final decision. Furthermore, EMR and practice management may have serious implications on the quality of care delivered within a practice; therefore it is mandatory for providers to be completely thorough before implementing any application.

“After you part with your hard earned money on adopting a certain EMR or practice management system and  you eventually discover that the costs outweigh the benefits, you will end up becoming aggravated. Hence, comprehensive research is fundamental prior to deciding upon any particular product or service you decide to apply within your practice”, says a Massachusetts based physician.

The core benefit of applying tools like EMR and practice management is that they have automated arduous processes which previously had to be carried out manually. In a modern doctor’s office, clinical processes are expedited and made easy through EMR, while administrative processes are automated through a practice management system. After the advent of electronic medical records, tasks which required long hours can now be wrapped up in a few minutes. Storing and retrieving documents is now done electronically within a few minutes. Furthermore, thanks to this technology the healthcare industry has ventured into the electronic sphere, where chances for any silly mistakes made are highly minimized.

Just a decade ago, no one would have envisioned that such applications would completely revolutionize the entire healthcare system – health information being transferred without barriers of location or boundaries of paper. In the world of today we see it happening; due to the incursion of health IT applications, healthcare as we know it has been transformed.


Certified EMR – An Absolute Necessity

When discussing the health IT sector today, certified EMR is the hottest and most talked about topic of conversation. Before delving into why it’s so significant in the industry, we need to understand what a certified EMR is first. To put it down bluntly, any EMR which meets the requirements set by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), a body established by the Office of National Coordinator for health IT (ONC) for testing and evaluation purposes, is considered a certified EMR and allows physicians to receive incentives by complying with meaningful use. In lay man’s terms, a certified EMR is any EMR which fulfills the minimum requirements set by the governing bodies to qualify for incentives set by the government.

Talking of EMRs and certified EMR, there is a lot opposition evident towards the adoption process for several reasons; one of the major ones being that physicians have become too comfortable with traditional methods of practicing medicine. Human nature is as such that by and large we’re resistant to change. The startup and training costs on any EMR are other important aspects which have their weight in this regard. Having said that, in order to avoid the inevitable penalties without conforming to set guidelines and in order to achieve meaningful use incentives, application of a certified EMR is unavoidable.

Clinicians’ only just began to fulfill Stage 1 of Meaningful Use requirements and it was  already time to get ready for Stage 2 Meaningful Use, where a fundamental anticipated requisite is to enhance the volume, as well the quality of electronic information shared between clinicians and their patients. When one analyzes the industry it’s easy to observe that patient portals aren’t a fresh concept. They have been here for over a decade now. It’s just that usage of patient portals remained latent until the concept of meaningful use came in the picture and revitalized it.

Physicians can meet two suggested central measures of Stage 2 via proper application of the patient portal. First of all through the patient portal, clinicians can fulfill the requirement of provision of a clinical summary as per total patient visits, to a minimum of half of their patients within three working days. Secondly, doctors can submit medication lists, personal medical history, lab results and so forth electronically to patients upon their request.

Basically, physicians can communicate with their patients round the clock and vice versa through the patient portal electronically; a method for a clinician to provide information on a secure channel to their patients quickly and easily. A number of supplementary benefits can also be achieved through patient portal such as prescription renewals, clinical summaries, secure SMS messaging, test results etc. In cases where doctors have been initially reluctant to go for a certified EMR, post training and application of the software feedback has generally been positive. The end result being the provider’s office being more productive and furthermore, greater satisfaction in clinicians and patients alike.


The HIPPA Violations Story

While there is obvious value in health information digitization, there exists a strong question of security concerns too. Before Electronic Health Records (EHR), it had been fairly simple for healthcare organizations. All they had to do was dedicate a secure room for patient records and hire a filer! Now, with EHRs and more importantly HIEs, patient data is exposed to both physical and cyber theft or unauthorized disclosures, and such occurrences result in violations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

HIPPA was created to provide standards on secure electronic information exchange between healthcare professionals through EHRs. The act revolves around two essential objectives. The provision of personal health information to patients on request is the first, while giving patients the right to apply restrictions on the use or disclosure of patient health information is the second. Failure to comply with the aforementioned objectives on part of healthcare providers leads to HIPAA violations – ultimately resulting in penalties worth millions of dollars or even imprisonment.

According to official reports, a reputable Health Management Organization (HMO) had to pay $4.3 million in penalties as a result of HIPAA violations. It is said that the organization not only refused to provide a number of patients with their health information records, but also failed to cooperate during the investigation. Ensuring the privacy on patient information is another major concern of HIPAA. Be it a virtual breach, illegal disclosure or even physical theft of information, it is the provider or the practice that is responsible to face the consequences. According to another official report, a hospital made a settlement of $1 million for losing patient information on a subway.

Having shed some light on the financial penalties, let’s take a look at the imprisonment cases. The criminal penalties could be divided under three major categories, which are as follows:

1. Knowingly obtaining or disclosing identifiable patient information would result in one year imprisonment ($50,000 fine).

2. Gaining patient information under false facade would result in one year imprisonment ($100,000 fine).

3. Obtaining patient information for personal gain or to support malicious intent would result in ten years imprisonment ($250,000 fine).

Another incident reported in official reports states that an employee for Miami hospital was sentenced two years imprisonment as a result of stealing patient information and selling it as part of identity theft conspiracy.

The aforementioned incidents are explicit evidences of the fact that HIPAA likes to be taken seriously. While both EHR technology and information exchange standards have been around for a while now, there is much need for awareness on the use of EHRs and security of patient information.