Three things to minimize challenges of Meaningful Use

Most physicians are using Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the country to help them meet regulatory requirements, achieve Meaningful Use and improve quality of care delivered. However, the second objective, Meaningful Use, has been a tricky concept and with the introduction of Stage 2, it is becoming even more complex for

One such product which is ready for Meaningful Use is “All-in-One” Cloud by CureMD.

While achievement of Meaningful Use may be a challenge, it can be an opportunity to improve business and enrich patient relationships. We are enlisting three things that you can do to minimize the challenges Meaningful Use presents.

1.       Evaluate your situation: First and foremost, each practice has its own varied challenges and the readiness to achieve Meaningful Use is different from one another. Each practice needs to know the requirements for Stages 1, 2 and 3 and how does achievement of those objectives align with the practice goals.

2.       Develop a plan: After analyzing practice objectives with regards to achievement of Meaningful Use, there needs to be a concrete plan as to how they will be achieved. Practices need to know their workflow from patient recruitment to examination and retention. They also need to be aware why achievement of patient engagement is important to them. When you make a comprehensive plan, it will be easier to implement throughout your practice and get you ready to achieve Meaningful Use.

3.       Use a certified EHR system: One of the most important things to achieving Meaningful Use is to use a certified Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. In case you are not using one, you need to make a very careful EHR adoption decision. Some of the vendors out there will not help you achieve MU while others may not have support for future stages of the system.

While achievement of Meaningful Use is a challenge, it is largely an opportunity to reinvigorate practice business opportunities. 


How is e-Prescribing helping practice workflows?

e-Prescribing or Electronic Prescribing is a method through which practices are able to send prescriptions directly to pharmacies from point-of-care in an error-free and understandable format. E-Prescribing has become one of the major features of modern day Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and is being used by physicians a lot in their daily workflows.

Let’s take a detailed look how ePrescribing is helping physicians improve workflows.erx

  1. Up-to-date drug knowledgebase: e-Prescribing helps physicians have instant, up-to-date drug knowledgebase from which they can select and prescribe drugs to patients easily.
  2. Medication reconciliation: e-Prescribing allows real-time checking of a patient’s current medications to the ones the physician is suggesting. This is done to avoid duplication, omissions, dosing errors or drug interactions.
  3. Complete medication history: With the help of e-Prescribing, complete and accurate medication history of the patient can be retrieved at any time conveniently. This really helps a physician check the drugs which have been administered to the patient throughout his/her life by various physicians.
  4. Age, weight-based dose adjustments: e-Prescribing also helps physicians to adjust doses based on age and weight of the patients thereby largely improving the quality of care delivered.
  5. Dosage calculator: e-Prescribing also helps physicians calculate the exact amount of dosages that are going to be administered to the patients.  This is really useful and eliminates any chances of overdose or otherwise.
  6. Process refill requests: e-Prescribing also connects with patient portals in real time to process refill requests submitted by the patients at all times. In addition, e-Prescribing also helps practices connect with pharmacies in order to send real time requests.

In addition to these, there are many other benefits of e-Prescribing like providing access to prescription benefits, prescription histories, eligibility checks, adverse reactions and recommended dosages, etc which greatly help a practice improve its workflows.


Accountable Care Organizations and their impact on healthcare industry

What are Accountable Care Organizations?

Before we delve into the world of ACOs, it is imperative to understand a key concept, Medicare. Medicare is a U.S. government plan devised to help people aged 65 and older with their health issues. It covers people with disabilities as well as people suffering from chronic diseases and end stage renal diseases.

With that explained, let’s get on to the main topic. Accountable Care Organizations are groups of doctors, hospitals, healthcare providers and others who voluntarily work together in order to provide top quality care to Medicare patients.

A key aspect of ACOs is that they are formed to ensure that people who are suffering from chronic diseases are provided healthcare at the right time without any delays. ACOs also make sure that there are no medical errors or duplication of services provided to patients.

The ACO model derives its profit after it succeeds in providing quality healthcare and spends its budget wisely. The savings resulting from efficient budget spending are then shared amongst the entities in the ACO model.

Requirements to be part of an ACO

As per the federal laws, four types of entities can become part of an ACO.

  1. ACO Professionals. For example, doctors of medicine or osteopathy, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists in group practice arrangements.
  2. Networks of individual practices of ACO professionals.
  3. Partnerships or joint venture arrangements between hospitals and ACO professionals.
  4. Hospitals employing ACO professionals.

In addition to these, the Proposed Rule allows the following entities to be part of ACOs.

  1. Providers or suppliers specified under the Social Security Act (SSA) that are otherwise not ACO professionals or hospitals.
  2. Critical access hospitals that bill under Method II.

Benefits of being an ACO

One of the biggest advantages of being a participant in the ACO model is that the entity will be able to capture more market share compared to those providing healthcare on the older model. In addition to this, entities in the ACO model will be able to share and manage their resources in a much more efficient way. Another important feature of being part of the ACO right now for the entities is that they will be able to survive because of the expected upcoming healthcare budget squeeze.

Impact of ACO on the industryacos

ACOs will revolutionize the industry in ways more than one. Since entities in the ACO will be working together, they will be able to understand each other well and will always refer a patient to someone in their own network. Its importance could be understood from the fact that although it is only a 7-page document in Obamacare, it is being debated a lot already.

Not only the entities will benefit from the ACO model, the patients will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this program. They will be subject to top quality treatment and care because of this model, will have the liberty to choose any doctor in the network and could even see a doctor outside the network without having to pay anything extra.

This model will ensure complete patient care because if ACOs do not provide that to patients, they will not be making any profit and might also stand to lose their contracts.

Cutting the long debate short, the ACO model is all set to change the fact of healthcare industry in the United States. The end beneficiary: the patients!

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Health Information Exchange (HIE) – Is it the right way?

Increasing dissemination and exchange of health information electronically between multiple care providing bodies has led to the emergence of Health Information Exchanges (HIE). General opinion has been that these HIEs will inevitably enhance the quality of care, but newer studies debate whether this is the right way to encourage information sharing across the healthcare community.

Recent research by experts in the industry questions the ability of Health Information Exchanges to operate fully in compliance with Meaningful Use as required by the HITECH Act. Instead, researchers suggest developing a cloud based Health Record Bank.

THE HRSA website defines a health record bank as an “electronic consumer-controlled warehouse that gathers, stores and disseminates patients’ health records. A patient can, for a fee, establish an account with a health record bank. When the patient has new medical information – such as information relating to an upcoming physician’s appointment – their provider can send it directly to the bank. The patient can also submit their own information as well as determine who can have access to review their personal medical records.”

One of the original researchers for this study shared his idea that since Electronic Health Records are usually banked in communities across the country, it would be prudent for patients to share their information on a single platform. Not only would this give them better accessibility, it would give the government a better chance to monitor and analyze the trend or pattern of population health.

Cloud-based banks would perform functions of data maintenance for patients’ electronic health records in different communities throughout the country with a local or regional provider having a separate copy of the records which the patient will be able to transfer to any other provider, if he or she chooses to.

Researchers believe that current health information systems are faulty and unstructured. The crisis in healthcare and the need for urgency in reforms lead the research team to think about better ways to share large amounts of medical information across the community, connecting all stakeholders related to the industry.

One of the main issues with current health information exchanges is that it Is largely based on an assumption that one can get information about any patient from any provider. This is ineffective because if you go to a doctor for information about a patient, the doctor will have to contact some other doctor and ask for that specific information which the other doctor will have to search for first, and then relay the information back to the doctor you are sitting with.

If all the information related to every patient across the country was kept on a single database, without the need to check with other parties, information sharing would become easier, quick and efficient. The dilemma now is that, considerable amount of money has already been spent on health information exchanges across the country. This leaves little desire to look for alternative ways of information sharing and a lack of capital for more research into health record banks.



HIPAA Omnibus Rule: What has changed and what needs to be done

March 25th, 2013 marked the beginning of the 180 day transitioning period in which covered entities, business associates and subcontractors will start to modify and update their policies, agreements, procedures, practices and forms to fulfill the compliance requirements of the Omnibus Rule which has a deadline of September 23, 2013.

In the transitioning period, covered entities and business associates should be preparing and executing modified business associate and data use agreements. They should train their staff regarding the changes in the previous rules and educate them on their responsibilities to comply with the requirements of protected health information and breach notifications. With the new changes taking place, it is extremely important for stakeholders to know if they fall within the scope of HIPAA and HITECH regulations.


Covered Entities & Business Associates: Which one are you?
Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, a Covered Entity includes three different groups which include healthcare providers, health plans and healthcare clearinghouses. The healthcare providers group includes all entities transmitting electronic health information including, doctors, clinics, psychologists, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacies and nursing homes. The second group includes Health Maintenance Organizations, Medicare & Medicaid and different Health Plans. The third group refers to organizations which process the healthcare information received from another organization and turn it into a standard format, including billing services, re-pricing companies, community health management information systems and value-added networks.

Business Associates include all organizations conducting business with covered entities involving the use and access of protected health information. Businesses dealing in Electronic Health Records, EMR software, data analysis, billing claims processing, and provision of services such as administrative, consulting and financial will fall under the category of business associates. All subcontractors of such business associates are also regarded as business associates if they are in any way required to view, use and analyze protected health information. If an entity is creating, receiving, accessing, maintaining or transmitting Personal Health Information, then they will become Business Associates. Entities that come across protected health information but only pass on the information without viewing or accessing it will not be regarded as Business Associates.

So what has changed and what needs to be done?
Previously, covered entities were responsible for reporting data breaches to the department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Covered entities were also required to contractually obligate their Business Associates to safeguard any Protected Health Information they handled. Business Associates were under no obligation to report data breaches to anyone else except the covered entities. With the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule, there have been a few important changes.

Business Associates are now required to directly report any Protected Health Information data breaches to the HHS. They are also required to abide by the same rules which apply to covered entities and to be held liable to the same penalties.

Regarding the changes brought with the Omnibus Rule, Leon Rodriguez, Director of Civil Rights at the HHS said, “This final omnibus rule marks the most sweeping changes to the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules since they were first implemented. These changes not only greatly enhance a patient’s privacy rights and protections, but also strengthen the ability of my office to vigorously enforce the HIPAA privacy and security protections, regardless of whether the information is being held by a health plan, a health care provider, or one of their business associates.”

The HIPAA Omnibus Rule contains modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement and Breach Notification rules. With the implementation of this rule, HIPAA wants to make sure that every organization that accesses or uses health information comes under the same scrutiny which applies to covered entities and business associates.

By September 23, 2013, every liable stakeholder must recognize their status as a business associate and guarantee their compliance with the Omnibus Rule.

The adjustment in the HIPAA Rules will allow for increased control and protection of public’s health information. Individuals will be given increased rights over their personal medical information so that they will be able to take electronic copies of their Electronic Medical Records and they will be able to ask their providers to not share their treatment information with their health plan. The new rule also forbids organizations to share the patient’s information for marketing or selling purposes without permission. Patients will hence be empowered since they will have authority over the use of their health information.

Talking about the new rule, Secretary HHS, Kathleen Sebelius said, “Much has changed in health care since HIPAA was enacted over fifteen years ago. The new rule will help protect patient privacy and safeguard patients’ health information in an ever expanding digital age.” Get HIPAA Compliant EMR for your practice today.

6 Simple Steps to Improve Practice Revenues

One Nation, One EHR –The Direct Project

The essence of Health Information Exchange (HIE) lies in easily accessible health information to improve the quality of care delivered by the healthcare community. Complicated formats intrinsic to many EHR systems are generally counterproductive to this basic nature of HIEs and can prove to be a hindrance against delivering quality care. So the natural question arises, what can be done to remove such blockades in the inherent design of these EHRs to facilitate their intended requisites? A popular solution proposed to answer this query is to develop a holistic system of sharing health information between healthcare providers and other concerned entities on a national level within the healthcare continuum.

With the expected level of complications in developing such a system, a lot of critics would say that the notion of a national EHR system is far-fetched and would dismiss the idea altogether. Their objection would be justified if we considered the amount of time invested into the development and implementation of health information interoperability throughout the nation and still not attaining the desired results. Not even a single developed country so far has managed to go a hundred percent electronic with their clinical documentation. That being said, we have examples of numerous countries that have successfully devised and kicked off a national EHR system including France, Singapore, Sweden and Germany. These systems have been successfully deployed for quite some time now and are functioning with improved efficiency while acquiring a larger database of patients by the day.


When one ponders over the matter, the ideal solution would be to implement such a system in the United States as well. It wouldn’t matter which hospital you visited or if you switched providers, your private health record would be accessible in a secure format no matter where the point of care is located. Reflect on the example where your physician refers you to another specialist. Imagine if the specialist already had your health information upon your arrival instead of you having to remember your previous tests, medications and diagnoses. Wouldn’t that be much more convenient and helpful as compared to the alternative?

The fact of the matter is that the government is not oblivious to the huge potential which lies in developing such an interface on a national scale. Significant efforts have been made towards achieving such a system. The government’s endeavors came to fruition in March of 2010 when the Direct Project was launched and furthered the struggle to form a robust nationwide health information network. The Direct Project was developed in order to create a secure, simple and scale able platform which is standardized to send/receive authenticated health information to trusted entities over the internet. More than fifty different organizations and 200 participants are currently employing the Direct Project to their benefit. These participants consist of PHR and EHR vendors, system integrators, medical organizations, federal organizations, health IT consultants and many more. We will try to illustrate some implemented instances pertaining to the Direct Project with some examples in this extract.



The Newborn Hearing Screening Program (NBS) in Florida mandates the state’s hospitals to monitor all newborn babies to check for any potential hearing impairment which the infants might be experiencing. This process is carried out in order to make instant interventions in case a problem is detected so that any undesirable effects of hearing loss may be countered. Conventionally, the NBS processing was largely accomplished through fax. This meant that hospitals were required to present screening results to the state and NBS had to provide a compilation of results which were accumulated back to the hospitals through fax. One can imagine the inefficiencies as a consequence of using such an outdated medium. Right now, Florida is employing the Direct Project to make electronic transmissions for NBS and the results have spoken in volumes. The cost incurred for paper during processing has virtually been eliminated along with the hassle of using paper which accompanies it. Furthermore, it has created a sizeable increase in the efficiency of workflows for audiologists and various other professionals conducting the screenings.


The St. Joseph Health System and Redwood MedNet in California are collaborating to implement the Direct Project to enhance care delivery for newborns. Maternity wards inside different facilities will make use of the Direct Project to deliver newborns’ health information to their concerned pediatricians. Moreover, this health information will be transmitted to the patients’ HealthVault accounts as well which will enable parents to view their babies’ health data even prior to their discharge from the hospital. Redwood MedNet takes this even a step further; using the leverage of the Direct Project Redwood MedNet is providing hospitals the capacity to share clinical summaries once patients are discharged from the hospital. This gives hospitals the capability to demonstrate proposed Meaningful Use requirements which direct providers to electronically share care summaries during a patient’s transition from one clinical setting to another.


Guam HIE is tackling several distinct aspects in their implementation of the Direct Project for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA and Guam HIE are at present referring VA patients in Guam for mammography by means of the Direct Project. They are looking towards using the resourcefulness of the Direct Project in making all future referrals for VA patients, providing a simple mechanism to expedite test results and imaging results alike. Guam HIE is also planning to employ the Direct Project to exchange military patient information with the Department of Defense as well.

Approximately 30 states across the country have gone live with the Direct Project with numerous others to follow. Providers may now share confidential patient health information electronically to ensure informed referrals and safer care transitions to other care delivery organizations via the Direct Project services presented by the ONC. Unnecessarily spending money on duplicated results is abolished once this innovation is adopted. The Direct Project will undoubtedly prove to be an innovative tool to enhance patient care and become a time saver for both doctors and patients.


EMR Adoption and Health Information Exchange

The last few years have been monumental for health. Electronic medical records have flooded into the mainstream with a recent report from Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggesting that nearly 55% of physicians in the US are at some stage of adoption. The survey also indicated that most respondents felt that EMRs had improved the overall quality of care. Industry analysts view this as a huge achievement for the healthcare industry and a giant leap towards the reformation process. One industry expert says, “The EMR has the numbers now. With more than half of the physician populous already using electronic medical records, physicians still using paper will have to join in or risk becoming obsolete.”

The U.S has been quick to utilize emerging technology in healthcare and with EMR adoption on the rise, physicians are likely to respond positively to innovation. “Our objective is connecting care and to reach this goal, we require an electronic health information exchange platform. EMRs provide just that”, says a hospital administrator.

John Lynn from shared a similar opinion in his blog. He believes that most of the healthcare community is aware of the benefits of Health Information Exchange (HIE). John argues that while standardization and development costs are two main barriers, the scale of EMR adoption in the country may be the biggest impediment to growth in the sector, he writes, “We want HIE’s to be successful, but can an HIE be really successful for doctors and hospitals that don’t have an EHR? The lack of EHR adoption might be the biggest impediment to HIE.”

The transformation of the healthcare system hinges on the success of electronic medical records. Having realized the importance of EMR adoption, the government extended its support through Regional Extension Centers and other educational communities in various states. The ONC highlighted the need for outreach programs targeting the rural and underdeveloped areas. While cost is a major deterrent here, education and exposure are the other key constraints.

The CDC survey also listed solo providers as the laggards in the adoption cycle, with only 30% reporting for adoption. However, the outlook is not so bleak. An industry expert highlighted that it’s common for independent businesses to lag behind in industrial changes, saying, “The adoption may be slower for independent doctor offices but it would change in the long run. Physicians are likely to follow large health corporations and hospitals in adoption. In fact there is an increasing trend of independent doctors adopting EMR systems with an HIE interface with their local hospital.”

HIEs are a step in the right direction and should help reduce cost in the long run. The communication process will simplify and health organizations will be able improve the patient care process through coordination. EMR adoption will continue to be the top priority and the government remains optimistic as it aims to shift America to electronic medical records by the end of 2014.

Read more: Data migration: Why is it important in Healthcare?