What’s Meaningful Use?
The U.S. government introduced the Meaningful Use (MU) program as part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to encourage healthcare providers to show “meaningful use” of a certified Electronic Medical Records (EHR) system. Eligible providers who do so receive incentive payments. The overall goal of the MU program is to promote the widespread adoption of EHR systems, ultimately creating an infrastructure that improves the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient care in the United States.
To qualify for MU incentive payments, eligible providers must not only adopt an EHR but also show that they’re “meaningfully using” their EHR by meeting a number of objectives designed to have a positive impact on patient care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has established these measures as part of their mission to advance healthcare IT in the U.S. Individual physicians and other eligible health care professionals can each receive up to $44,000 through the Medicare MU program or up to $63,750 through the Medicaid MU program, depending upon when they begin attesting to the program’s requirements.
The HITECH Act provides that, beginning in 2015, eligible providers not exhibiting meaningful use of certified EHR technology will receive less than 100% of their Medicare fee schedule for their professional services. Considering this upcoming revenue penalty, current incentive payments and the efficient sharing of information that MU promotes, it’s widely considered that now is the time to find the best EHR solution for your workflow needs and to begin (or continue) participating in the MU program.
What are the Meaningful Use incentives?
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has established separate Electronic Medical Record (EHR) incentive programs for Medicare and Medicaid; although participants in both programs must meet similar MU criteria, each program varies in its incentive payment schedule and first-year program requirements. Eligible healthcare professionals must choose the program in which they want to participate (although most hospitals are able to receive payments from both programs). Once an eligible provider has selected a program, he or she is permitted to make a one-time switch from one to the other. Although the two programs contain many common elements and share common goals, there are some important differences between them.
Medicare Incentive Program: Consists of three stages, each with its own set of MU criteria and requirements that eligible professionals must meet to receive incentive payments. Those demonstrating meaningful use of certified EHR technology can receive incentive payments up to $44,000 over a five-year period. An additional incentive is available for those who provide services in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
Medicaid Incentive Program: Requires participants to first establish the use of an EHR, and then maintain that use over a series of years. In the first year of program participation, eligible providers can adopt, implement, upgrade to, or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. In all subsequent years of participation, providers must meet MU criteria across a number of objectives. Eligible healthcare professionals can receive up to $63,750 in Medicaid incentive payments over the six years they participate in the program. While the Medicare Program for MU is managed by the CMS, the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program is run by each individual state.
What are the MU stages? The MU program for Medicare is divided into three stages. Each stage builds on the previous one over several years, to expand EHR usage to an increasingly larger patient population with a wider range of healthcare processes. The goals and requirements of the Meaningful Use stages are as follows: Meaningful Use Stage 1: Emphasizes proper electronic data capture and data sharing using an EHR technology. Eligible providers can attest to Stage 1 and receive their incentive payment after meeting 13 core objectives, and 5 objectives out of 9 from a menu set. Meaningful Use Stage 2: Introduces new objectives and measures, as well as higher thresholds, requiring providers to extend EHR capabilities to a larger portion of their patient populations. As with Stage 1, the Stage 2 MU objectives are structured as core objectives and others that must be selected from menu sets. In order to attest to Stage 2, eligible professionals will have to meet 17 required core objectives, and 3 out of 6 menus set objectives. Meaningful Use Stage 3: Continues to expand objectives for the use of EHR systems by eligible healthcare professionals and hospitals. Stage 3 is likely to follow the same format as the first two MU stages but would have higher thresholds and more extensive requirements. Based on the current timeline, a provider would begin Stage 3 MU two years after first achieving Stage 2 MU. Note that providers who were early demonstrators of meaningful use in 2011 will meet three consecutive years of MU under the Stage 1 criteria before advancing to the Stage 2 criteria in 2014. All other providers would meet two years of MU under the Stage 1 criteria before advancing to the Stage 2 criteria in their third year.
What are the benefits of Meaningful Use? Providers who demonstrate meaningful use of an EHR can realize advantages that extend far beyond incentive payments. Not only do participating providers encourage and participate in a smooth exchange of health information, but they also enable the delivery of higher quality patient care, leading to better outcomes at a lower cost. This is a real value for the entire care community. The benefits of MU are far-reaching, and include: Complete, accurate data: Caregivers have access to the information they need at their fingertips, to diagnose problems and provide the best possible care. Improved care coordination: Information can be shared instantly across care communities, including physician offices, hospitals, and health systems, leading to better care coordination. Patient engagement: With the ability to receive their medical information electronically and share it securely over the Internet, patients can take a more active role in their healthcare and that of their families. Improved patient safety: Instant electronic access to information about medications, allergies, conditions and treatment history can greatly reduce the risk of medical errors. Healthier patient populations: Crucial data about diseases and outcomes captured at the point of care becomes available to other health professionals locally, regionally and nationwide. Good news for care providers – and their patients.
For hospitals and healthcare practices, EHR systems are like the brain of the whole operation, facilitating the relay of information and putting valuable data at providers’ fingertips in seconds. Getting data into an EHR; however, can be a challenge, particularly if the system you choose isn’t compatible with workflow processes or other technologies being used by your organization. Many organizations learn this lesson too late, but the good news for you is that switching EHRs isn’t impossible – and doing so sooner rather than later can save you headaches in the long term. Under your MU Service Agreement, you’re entitled to receive assistance from an Account Manager who will work with your clinic to help you achieve MU certification. Depending upon the MU package that you select (listed above), you’ll receive assistance with setting up our software and designated hours of in-person training. For PrognoCIS users who are current on their annual contract and require additional assistance beyond the Resource Center, Bizmatics offers unlimited support through our Tech Support Department. Our Support Technicians are equipped with the tools to meet both simple and complex challenges, from helping users set their software up for the required Meaningful Use Stage 1 elements to adding a new provider to the EHR.