Although it may seem counterintuitive, the best way to ensure that you can meet meaningful use Stage 2 (MU2) requirements is to look beyond merely demonstrating compliance.
Rather than measuring yourself against the specifics of MU2 minimums, seek out processes and technologies that help you exceed current requirements, that continually accelerate your practice’s progress toward the overall goals of meaningful use — and that move toward a more modern, connected form of healthcare. Patients will appreciate the increased access and convenience, and you’ll be able to simplify and streamline your operations.
Let’s consider a couple MU2 measures to see what this shift in thinking means in real life.
- For eligible professionals (EPs), one of the 17 core measures requires you to provide more than 50 percent of your patients with access to their health information within four business days of it being made available to you.
- More than 5 percent of your patients must view, download or transmit their health information to a third party.
In these cases, focusing on the percentages actually hinders your ability to meet them, because it obscures the intent behind the numbers. The real goals are ensuring that patients understand the value of accessing their health information online, and then take action based on that understanding. You’re really being asked to help people become more engaged in their own healthcare.
That may sound less than concrete — but the practical steps you can take to reach this goal will also help you demonstrate compliance. For example, insert straightforward portal registration and log-in information into your existing patient-facing materials, including your billing statements. Make sure your staff continually reminds and educates patients about how to access their records and results online — that requesting patients’ email addresses and providing them with log-in instructions are as integral to the check-in process as verifying insurance coverage and accepting copays.
It’s also important that you and your staff become genuine advocates for the technology you implement. Patients trust their providers’ advice. Empathize with how busy your patients are and describe the patient portal as a resource for helping them manage those challenges and improve their health. Don’t just let them know it’s an option — offer it as a recommendation, as a way they can track, connect and act.
The idea of looking beyond compliance also applies to MU measures related to information exchange. Under MU2, you must provide an electronic summary-of-care record for more than 50 percent of your referrals and transitions of care, and must conduct at least one successful electronic exchange of a summary-of-care record with a provider whose EHR system was designed by a different vendor than yours. The spirit of this MU2 requirement is for you to streamline your ability to exchange summary-of-care records, be more diligent about exchanging them electronically, and do so regardless of the various EHR systems you and other providers use.
Since the goal is being able to communicate with all other providers, the way to reach that goal is to be — or become — inherently nimble, untethered to your EHR system and not dependent on some state or regional HIE entity that may or may not remain financially viable. You can do this by implementing fully interoperable, vendor-neutral cloud-based HIE technology. When you can exchange electronic summary-of-care records with 100 percent of other providers, even those still bound by paper records — and when your technology requires only that they have Internet access and a web browser — reaching that 50 percent benchmark ceases to be onerous, and exchanging records with at least one other EHR system becomes easy.
The right MU2-certified technology enables you to transcend the limits, costs and lack of interoperability among disparate EHR systems — and thereby to do far more than just demonstrate compliance. You can free your staff from the time-consuming cycle of faxing records and confirming receipt, reduce the piles of paperwork in your office, and deliver the conveniences and access that patients want. An Accenture survey found that 90 percent of patients surveyed prefer web-based access to health information and educational materials that help them manage their conditions. Eight-eight percent would like to receive email reminders about preventative or follow-up care. And 76 percent would like to be able to exchange online messages with their providers.
Stepping back from the minutiae of the individual measures will help you see which currently available solutions will be truly nimble enough to address the specifics of future regulation. It will help you spot enduring value when you see it in the form of vendor-agnostic technology that makes you more connected and interoperable, not just more compliant. And it will help you align with what patients truly want from their providers, making your practice stand out from the crowd and building your reputation as a modern, patient-focused provider.
That’s the additional benefit to seeing beyond compliance — ultimately you’ll invest your resources more wisely, and end up in a stronger financial and competitive position now and in the future.
Doug Fielding is the vice president of product strategy at ZirMed.
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