Meaningful Use criteria for Eligible Professionals (EPs)

In order to avail government incentives for Meaningful Use program, eligible professionals (EPs) would have to demonstrate that they have been using their electronic health records (EHRs) according to the criteria of meaningful use program. Physicians would have to successfully attest to the program in order to qualify for government incentives program, administered by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

EPs who have just adopted EHRs would not have to attest for meaningful use program in their first year of implementation, but without later attestation they won’t be eligible for government incentives.

Meaningful Use criteria

The first criterion to fulfill in order to achieve meaningful use is to adopt a government certified EHR system. The certified software should be interoperable and have ICD-10 coding system. The software should have a patient portal to engage patients for informed and improved healthcare. This is required under the Medicare EHR Incentive Programs, which is run under by the CMS.

The objectives and criteria for the meaningful use program have been divided into three different stages that will span over five years period. The objectives are further divided into core and menu, of which core objectives should be fulfilled. However, there is option for EPs to meet any criteria in the menu set.

In meaningful use stage 1, EPs should have certified EHRs, use it to record clinical and non-clinical data of patients, share information with necessary stakeholders and patients. The meaningful use stage 2  [whitepaper] requires EPs to be more rigorous about health information data, while the third stage focuses on the efficiency and quality of data shared and improved patient care.

Meaningful Use Deadline Almost Upon Us

Why is the fast approaching October 1, 2014 Meaningful Use (MU) deadline the talk of the healthcare industry? What happens if you do not start reporting by July 1? This article provides a simple breakdown of the situation.


MU defines the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) within an organization. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) gives financial incentives via Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs to providers who demonstrate the “meaningful use” of certified EHR technology. The incentive programs have three stages which beginning by meeting the Stage 1 requirements and subsequently progressing to the next stages.

Stage 1 has to do with data capturing (vitals, demographics, etc), while stage 2 is for advanced decision making (advanced clinical support) and stage 3, which will begin 2017 onwards, will focus on quality measures.

This is the last year to receive Medicare incentives for MU Stage 1 for which reporting begun as early as 2011.  If a provider does not start reporting by July 1, 2014, he will not be able fulfill the 90-day reporting requirement, and hence attest by the October 1, 2014 deadline. Consequently, he will not be eligible for the Medicare incentives.

Additionally, the Medicare penalty for providers who fail to start MU even in the last quarter of 2014 will be subjected to a 1% penalty (in 2015). The penalty will rise by one percent in subsequent years until 2017 after which the penalties are set to vary depending on the percentage of eligible professionals who are meaningful users.

See more on Meaningful Use.

Furthermore, while Medicare is taxable, Medicaid is not. The last year for receiving Medicaid Incentive Program benefits is 2016, however, there is no penalty for this program.

By adopting Meaningful Use and complying with the CMS requirements, practices will be able to enhance quality, safety, efficiency, care coordination, population and public health, reduce health disparities, and engage patients and families for their benefit, all while adhering to privacy and security norms.



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. 


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.


Patient Portals—Much More Than Meaningful Use

Patient portals are a means of qualifying for Meaningful Use. Seamless patient portal technology is a rarity. The transition starts in 2014 for Meaningful Use stage 2. The anxiety among the healthcare providers is valid, since the goal to achieve patient engagement: the dialogue between the patient and the provider, is a tough call and providers still consider achieving Meaningful Use a far fetched idea. But have you wondered how easy Patient Portal use is? If you just know its uses and benefits, you may push towards using it from today onwards.

Through patient portals the volume of calls for providers and the calls to staff decreases. This decrease is achieved through the use of patient portal as it can handle the increased volume of traffic from patients in a systematic way through web-messages. By registering online patients reduce burden on staff and providers in terms of filling out forms.

Patient portals have advanced to a stage whereby patients can order their eyeglasses, pay their bills and schedule their medical appointments online, in addition to that they have allowed patients to come in contact directly with their providers.

For providers Patient Portals offer a huge benefit allowing providers to achieve MU by providing access to patients data that satisfies the requirement for MU.

As the mode of interaction and communication between the patient and provider becomes primarily text based, it increases the efficiency of communication, as the data sent through text is thoroughly analyzed and replied to in full detail.

MU empowers patients and requires the data in EMRs to be securely transferred among providers-patients-families. It is fulfilled through one of the basic features of Patient Portal, which is the secure communication and transfer of data it provides among providers, patients and their families.

All in all, Patient Portal is much more than Meaningful Use. It is not only the means of achieving but a mean of providing a secure, engaging, useful and efficient environment for the patient and his provider


What Does Meaningful Use Pay for?

Who would have thought for the CMS meaningful use incentive program to become one of the most polarizing topics in healthcare industry? Today, physicians stand divided. While some seek to benefit from the direction of use it provides, others blame meaningful use for stifling innovation in EMRs and health IT. Many medical professionals argue that use of medical technology should not be capped by regulations, “It is like a limiter. I should be able to decide how an EHR benefits my patient. Care should not be standardized. We deal with individuals as individuals. Not machines.”, says an annoyed physician.

However, the issue with meaningful use is not limited to standardization. Physicians attesting have to deal with several unique issues while reporting for meaningful use. The most significant concern has been the loss of productivity and the increase in overtime. When shifting from a paper based system, physicians want more control over documentation procedures and while few electronic medical records fulfill that need through customization, the meaningful use criteria still dictates clinical documentation for most physicians.

Some providers feel that restriction and control over their work causes an unnecessary delay that leads to loss of business and frustration among staff members. “The meaningful use incentive program is strategically designed to push physicians into adoption. Nobody incorporates overtime fees that one has to pay or the visitation slots that get freed up for meaningful documentation to be complete, particularly during the implementation and early adoption phase.”, says one provider.

On the other hand, there are a number of physicians that advocate for the CMS program. Some medical professionals believe that the meaningful use program is actually transforming healthcare, using a step by step approach. “We know that EMRs have been around for a while and some hospitals have been using these systems for nearly a decade. However, when you talk about solo practitioners without IT personnel, you can’t just expect them to start utilizing these systems in an efficient way. They would need a plan or a beginner’s guide to introduce them to the potential benefits of their EMRs.”, says Keith Smith, a health IT consultant.

Apart from the incentives, the improvement in care quality is what should ideally be the strongest proponent of Meaningful Use. It may add to the responsibility of providers to collect, analyze and share medical information, but it is through these changes that the healthcare system can truly transform. Farzad Mostashari the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology explains, “MU is a step by step road map of how our healthcare system can transform itself to provide higher quality of care, safer patients and patient coordinated care,” adding, “That means not only MU is the blue print of how to deliver better care, it is also the blue print of how healthcare providers can thrive in the healthcare markets.”

Read more: Everything You Need to Know about Meaningful Use Hardship Exemptions in 2016

EMR Adoption, Penalties and Incentives

I have always been against physicians being rushed into EMR adoption. With thousands of dollars worth of investments in EMR systems, physicians simply cannot afford to make a hasty decision. However, with that said it is no longer 2009. The year 2015 is closing in fast, with July 3rd to October 1st 2014 being the latest attestation period. Physicians can avoid penalties upon the end of this period and are recommended to attest for their first year of meaningful use during the next year.

Physicians close to retirement of course do not see the point in adopting an EMR solution. A physician even admitted to their willingness to pay penalties for a couple of years. Penalties are set to increase by 1% on an incremental basis each year, following an unsuccessful meaningful use attestation. Providers seeking to practice actively beyond 2015, should consider attestation or at least be planning to adopt to avoid payment cuts.

“Revenue is tight and processes are difficult to manage. We can utilize every cent.” exclaimed a practice manager, adding “penalties obviously do not sound good when compared with incentive money.”

Incentive money can be a welcome boost for many small or single provider practices. Physicians admit that the monetary incentives could help them further improve the patient experience. Even so, most physicians were unwilling to compromise on individual methodologies which they believe will be affected by using an EMR. Furthermore, some providers are simply overwhelmed with the selection process, given the number of vendors in the market.

“I was just searching for an EMR and found that there are 700 plus vendors in the market with half of them having the ONC certification.” one physician exclaimed in an independent survey.

Meanwhile, the government is continually expanding the network of Regional Extension Centers to help practices in the selection of EMR systems. With the introduction of web-based solutions, cost has already become a less significant problem. In a recent report published by Kalorama Information, sales of EMR reached $17.9 billion in 2011, showing an increase of 14.2 percent from the previous year. According to this market research, the penalty payments will continue to drive up the sales of EHR solutions for the next two years.

The ending of the first meaningful use attestation period in March, 2012 saw an increasing number of attesting providers. Official figures revealed a staggering $4.4 billion as total incentives paid out. CMS is optimistic to say the least while EMR vendors continue to upgrade and offer innovative solutions to practices. With the surge in independent consultancy groups and VARs, the selection process is bound to simplify over time. Given the motivation of receiving financial incentives or the fear of facing penalties, the right time to start planning your EMR implementation is now.