AMA Calls for Revision of ‘Meaningful Use’ Criteria in Electronic Record Incentive ProgramsOctober 21st, 2014
The Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Care Record (EHR) Incentive Programs provide financial support to eligible medical practices and hospitals who are upgrading or implementing EHR systems as long as they meet standards of “meaningful use.” The current criteria for meaningful use, however, are frustrating some medical professionals.
On Oct. 14, the American Medical Association released a suggested reworking of meaningful use guidelines to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. AMA President Robert M. Wah said that doctors want to see guidelines that will actually improve patient care.
“Physicians will always embrace technology that can help them provide better care for their patients and foster innovation, but improvements must be made to the meaningful use program in order for those goals to be achieved,” he said in a statement.
Suggested revisions include the following:
- A more flexible approach that will allow a broader spectrum of physicians to participate
- A reduced reporting burden on physicians
- An evidence-based approach that puts patient care at the forefront
- A focus on interoperability, or the ability for different systems to work together
The AMA asked the offices overseeing these programs to soften the current “all-or-nothing” approach, allowing those who meet 50% of program requirements to avoid penalties and those who meet 75% to receive incentives. The group also said that any criteria that a “vast majority” of doctors have been unable to implement should be made optional, and that hardship exemptions should be expanded.
What Practices Can Do
What does this debate mean for smaller practices attempting to comply with federal mandates? Approximately 75% of doctors using EHR systems report that they meet meaningful use requirements. Regardless of potential changes to incentive programs, electronic medical records that, at minimum, store patient information are fast becoming the norm; as of last year, 78% of office-based physicians used in-house or online EMR software, as opposed to only 18% in 2001. There are two important steps to take while policy is in flux:
- Stay on Top of the News: It can be more difficult for smaller practices to keep an eye or current rulings than it is for large hospitals with teams of lawyers and doctors dedicated to tracking policy changes. But it’s worth putting some time and resources into this effort, since misunderstandings can result in penalties and/or forfeited financial assistance. There have already been numerous revisions and extensions regarding EMR software implementation requirements, so it’s likely things will change again.
- Make a Good Long-Term Choice: The first step is to ensure that any EMR software you choose is certified for Stage II of meaningful use as currently defined. But you can also be forward thinking, choosing online EMR software that allows you access patient data, look up ICD codes and auto feed billing.
It’s also a good idea to choose medical software companies that provide ongoing support, since there may be updates over time.
Do you use an online EMR software in your current practice? Do you think it’s actually increased the quality of patient care? Share you opinion in the comments section.