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Confusion About “Meaningful Use” Reigns

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Are Doctors Embracing or Ignoring ARRA?

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

pruittAre physicians embracing ARRA Meaningful Use cash incentives or ignoring them? That depends on whom one asks.

Doctors versus the Feds

National progress towards Meaningful Use of expensive EHRs depends on whether one talks to federal employees whose jobs depend on the stimulus mandate, or doctors who purchase EHRs to improve care rather than to use them … Meaningfully.

The Feds

Today, Joseph Conn, writing for ModernHealthcare, posted a rosy outlook for MU adoption according to researchers working for HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator (ONC). They base their optimism for job security on a recent National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) survey:

“A growing number of office-based physicians are using more-robust EHRs that have higher-level functions needed to help the doctors qualify for federal EHR incentive payments [for Meaningful Use] and assist them in providing better, safer care for patients, the researchers reported.” (See “Researchers: More doctors using more-sophisticated EHRs”).

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20121212/NEWS/312129956/researchers-more-doctors-using-more-sophisticated-ehrsJust

eMR and HIT Security

The Doctors

However, yesterday, in an InformationWeek article by Ken Terry titled, “Meaningful Use Doesn’t Drive Doctors’ EHR Selection,” doctors suggested a more depressing future for MU sophistication based on the same NCHS survey:

“Jason Mitchell, MD, assistant director of the Center for Health IT at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), told InformationWeek Healthcare that he found [the lagging adoption of MU-capable EHRs] puzzling. While there’s no doubt that Meaningful Use has driven much of the increase in EHR use, he said, it seems strange that so many physicians would buy and implement EHRs that could not be used to show Meaningful Use.”

http://www.informationweek.com/healthcare/electronic-medical-records/meaningful-use-doesnt-drive-doctors-ehr/240144093

Assessment

Whom should doctors believe – HHS employees who give away billions of stimulus dollars for Meaningful Use, or family physicians who have determined that the subsidy isn’t worth the cost and effort?

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Important Notice from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology‏

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On behalf of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT

By JJ Minder joseph.minder@ketchum.com

Hello ME-P,

As I’m sure you’re aware, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched its brand new website HealthIT.gov last August. The website is designed to be the leading national resource on health information technology (health IT).

Link Update Notice

We see that the Medical Executive Post website currently links to ONC’s old policy site HealthIT.hhs.gov from the post titled: “Asking Uncle Sam…Why Health IT.”

Content currently on the HealthIT.hhs.gov site will be removed and merged to the new site by November 1st, 2012. We wanted to give you prior notice so you will be able to replace this link with a link to our new site HealthIT.gov

Assessment

We really appreciate you changing the link address to HealthIT.gov.

Please feel free to contact me at joseph.minder@ketchum.com if you have any questions or comments.

Best,

JJ Minder [Ketchum PR]

Contractor to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC)

(202) 835-9461

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More on “Meaningful Use” Requirements

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And  …  Its’ Impact on eHRs

Carol Miller RN MBA millerconsultgroup@gmail.com

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009introduced the “Meaningful Use” requirement for EHR systems with three main components:

The Components

1) The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing, 2) The use of a certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care, and 3) The use of a certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.

Meaningful Use refers to a set of 15 criteria that medical providers must meet in order to prove that they are using their EHRs as an effective tool in their practice.  There are also 10 additional criteria that are considered a la carte from which only 5 need to be demonstrated by the medical provider.

In total, 20 Meaningful Use criteria must be used within the EHR to qualify for stimulus payments during Stage One of the EHR incentive program.   Each of the criteria were developed and further reviewed by the Office of the National Coordinator [ONC] with public input.

A Five Year TimeLine

Meaningful use will be measured in stages over five years.  Each stage represents a level of adoption.  Many certified EHRS will allow providers to complete all Meaningful Use criteria, whereas others will only certify what is required in the early stages and modify at a later date with any new criteria.

The three stages are:

Stage One:  Essentially, Stage One is using the major functionality of a certified EHR.  This includes documenting set percentages of your visits, diagnoses, prescriptions, immunizations and other relevant health information electronically; using the clinical support tools (warnings and reminders that will be included in a certified EHR); and sharing patient information.  Providers and hospitals must report quality measures and public health information. For providers they must report on 6 clinical quality measures – 3 required core measures and 3 additional measures selected from a set of 38 clinical quality measures.  Eligible hospitals and Critical Care Hospitals (CAHs) must report on all 15 of the clinical quality measures.  Stage One is required in years 2011 and 2012.

Stage Two:  In addition to continuing to use all functionality from Stage One, physicians will be required to use EHRs to send and receive information such as lab orders and results.   Other criteria may be added.  Stage Two is expected to be implemented in 2013.

Stage Three:  This stage will continue fulfilling the criteria from Stages One and Two and will include clinical decisions support for national high priority conditions; emailing patients in a Personal Health Record (PHR); accessing comprehensive patient data; and improving population health.  Stage Three criteria have not been developed to date and the implementation is not expected until 2015.

Assessment

CMS payment penalties for non-compliance to the meaningful use regulations will begin in 2016 with an initial 1% penalty which could escalate to 5% five years later.  Therefore, with these criteria in place, we are likely to see virtually all hospitals attempt to meet the meaningful use criteria to avoid penalty cost.

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A Video to Discuss the Advantages of eHRs

From the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)

By Parmeeth Atwal / ONC Office of Communications

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“If I could snap my finger and have one thing transform the quality of care in the country, it would be that everyone would have an electronic health record that would be universally accessible”

-Joseph McCannon [Senior Advisor to the Administrator-CMS]

ONC recently released the video, “The Future of Health Care: Electronic Health Records,” which highlights the benefits of electronic health records (EHRs) through commentary from health information technology leaders.

Featured Experts

The video features remarks from:

  • Dr. Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health IT;
  • Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer of HHS;
  • Dr. Donald Berwick, Administrator for CMS;
  • Dr. Sachin Jain, Former Senior Advisor to the Administrator of CMS;
  • Christine Bechtel, Vice President, National Partnership for Women & Families;
  • Representatives from Regional Extension Centers (RECs); and
  • Ginger Vieira, a patient advocate

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On Track for Meaningful Use?

Are we on track to be a huge disappointment to our children’s children – or What?

[By Darrell K. Pruitt DDS]

When our grandchildren get the bill for the Obama administration’s subsidies benefitting primarily the health information technology industry, I bet they’re going to be really, really pissed at us for allowing today’s lawmakers to blow their 28 billion dollars to please HIT advocates who mislead consumers as well as lawmakers about the benefits of EHRs.

The Doctors Speak 

According to physicians who actually do the hard lifting in healthcare, the “meaningful use” requirements that they must prove in order to qualify for stimulus money will arguably increase both the cost and danger of healthcare – all for the benefit of stakeholders rather than principals. For one thing, “meaningful use” is meaningless if it fails to help physicians treat their patients. I think HIT stakeholders’ grandchildren should somehow be held accountable to my grandchildren.

Opposing Opinions  

Just days apart this week, two HIT reporters, Rich Daly from ModernHealthcare.com and Joseph Goedert from HealthDataManagment.com described two opposing letters the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently received: One from doctors and one from patients (et al).

On Monday, here is how Daly’s article “AMA to ONC: EHR program doesn’t work for docs” began:

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20110302/NEWS/303029950/1153

“Many physicians—specialists in particular—will not participate in the federal electronic health-record adoption incentive program because it requires them to include patient data that they do not otherwise collect, according to a Feb. 25 letter from 39 medical organizations letter to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology”

On Wednesday, Joseph Goedert, writing for HealthDataManagment.com began “Consumer Groups: Hold Strong on MU” with this:

http://www.healthdatamanagement.com/news/meaningful-use-criteria-comments-consumers-42080-1.html

“A coalition of 25 consumer groups and unions is asking federal officials to hold firm on more stringent criteria for Stage 2 of electronic health records meaningful use, and expressing support for going further. For instance, because patients still trust their providers more than other information sources, holding providers accountable for actual usage of a patient Web portal ‘is entirely appropriate and we strongly urge ONC to resist pressure from the provider community to absolve them from responsibility for making these services available and useful to their patients,’ according to a comment letter to the Office of the National Coordinator”

  • AARP
  • Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, Inc.
  • AFL-CIO
  • American Association on Health and Disability
  • American Hospice Foundation
  • Caring from a Distance
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Childbirth Connection
  • Consumers for Affordable Health Care
  • Consumers Union
  • Families USA
  • Family Caregiver Alliance
  • Healthwise
  • Mothers Against Medical Error
  • National Alliance for Caregiving
  • National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
  • National Consumers League
  • National Family Caregivers Association
  • National Health Law Program
  • National Partnership for Women & Families
  • National Women’s Health Network
  • OWL – The Voice of Midlife and Older Women
  • SEIU
  • The Children’s Partnership

Like the “Record Demographics” MU mandate, this is all for the “common good” I suppose. Consumer Advocasy groups wouldn’t mislead patients, would they?

I doubt many Americans represented by these 25 organizations ever imagined a new federal requirement that doctors record each patient’s demographics. (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program; Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 8 / Wednesday, January 13, 2010 / page 1861; RIN 0938-AP78).

This means that the 25 stakeholder groups are doing their best to help American taxpayers hold physicians accountable to record and share their patients’ demographic information with the US government – private information about me and my family members that I personally don’t trust the government to be given – even if I’m in vulnerable need of health care.

Daly’s Article 

According to Daly’s article, the demands of MU are distractions for increasingly busy doctors and staff whose focus, I believe, should include eye-contact with patients with specific health problems rather than irrelevant data needs of third parties, including consumer advocacy groups.

On the other hand, if consumer advocacy groups have successfully defined for the federal government what clueless patients allegedly need, who will the mandate really benefit? 25 consumer advocacy groups don’t equal one consumer, so their letter isn’t grass roots at all. It’s deception wearing lipstick. Gullible and vulnerable patients are again being misrepresented by HIT stakeholders for a cut of our grandchildren’s 28 billion.

Assessment

Finally, if MU requirements are an arguably expensive and dangerous distraction for physicians, how can the law possibly be any less absurd for dentists? I’ll look at meaningful use as well at the ADA’s apparently flagging commitment to EHRs next. The ADA is abandoning state informatics departments – leaving them exposed to ADA members’ questions they are unable to answer. It looks to me that intra-ADA relationships are deteriorating quickly, but nevertheless, traditional stoicism still hasn’t been broken. “Image is everything” – ADA/IDM slogan.

Dentists

Here’s a teaser, dentists: Chances are, your state ADA organization hasn’t yet shared with you how the MU requirement of CPOE (Computerized physician order entry – page 1858) will change your practice communications. If you are a HIPAA-covered entity with an NPI number and you don’t email instructions to your denture lab rather than include a hand-written note with the relevant patient’s plaster models, you won’t qualify for stimulus money. What can possibly go wrong with that meaningful idea?

Conclusion

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An Argument for Wikileaks in US Healthcare

On Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman

By Darrel K. Pruitt DDS

In 2008, Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman told Alex Nussbaurm of Bloomberg.com that physicians should take out loans to invest in his EHR product “to ensure that doctors have some skin in the game.” What did you expect? How much charm does it take to sell federally subsidized products when everyone knows that they’re mandated anyway?

Life Sans Blumenthal 

Yesterday, Nicole Lewis posted “Health IT’s Future without David Blumenthal” – a glowing and arguably deserved tribute to Dr. David Blumenthal who is leaving the ONC

http://www.informationweek.com/news/healthcare/leadership/showArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=0OLOEMENGCENJQE1GHRSKH4ATMY32JVN?articleID=229201216&pgno=1&queryText=&isPrev=

From where I’m sitting, it’s clear that Tullman used Lewis and InformationWeek to score more points with Washington and Wall Street, while continuing to marginalize the interests of those who actually take out loans to purchase his product: “David shepherded ONC through a very critical time . . . the creation, definition, and implementation of meaningful use, which really is a way to ensure that physicians actually use electronic records to improve care, but also that taxpayers get good value for their investment.” What about the doctor’s investment and more importantly, if a doctor is busy clicking on links to qualify for meaningful use dollars, who is accountable to the patients?

I don’t know about you, but it’s not difficult for me to recognize that like other HIT stakeholders whose careers are propped up by easy mandates rather than finicky satisfied customers, Tullman indeed has solid free-market reasons to play to investors and politicians while fearing his customers. They’re pissed at the man.

A Nationwide Survey           

HCPlexus recently partnered with Thompson Reuters to conduct a nationwide survey of almost 3,000 physicians concerning their opinions of the quality of health care in the near future considering the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Electronic Medical Records, and their effects on physicians and their patients. (See “5-page Executive Summary”)

http://www.hcplexus.com/PDFs/Summary—2011-Thomson-Reuters-HCPlexus-National-P

“Sixty-five percent of respondents believe that the quality of health care in the country will deteriorate in the near term. Many cited political reasons, anger directed at insurance companies, and critiques of the reform act – some articulating the strong feelings they have regarding the negative effects they expect from the PPACA.”

At this crucial time when Republicans are already threatening to cut off remaining HITECH funding, whose job will it be to break the news to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the EHR savings she was counting on to fund a major portion of healthcare reform are only as valuable as CEO Tullman’s politically-correct fantasy? Pop! From what Nicole Lewis writes, my bet is that the Secretary won’t take the news well: “[Sebelius] reiterated that the successful adoption and use of HIT is fundamental to virtually every other important goal in the reform of the nation’s health care system.” Such pressure from the top down will make it even more difficult for HIT stakeholders, including insurers and politicians, to disown the most egregious. crowd-pleasin’, bi-partisan blunder in medical history since blood-letting was declared Best Practice by popular demand.

According to the HCPlexus-Reuters survey results, one in four physicians think EHRs will actually cause more harm than help in spite of Dr. Blumenthal’s best efforts. I wonder if the escalating bad press about EHRs helped Blumenthal decide to return to his academic position at Harvard. Of course, the controversy over HITECH is nothing new. There have been signs for years that EHRs, including Allscripts products, will neither improve care nor provide taxpayers (our grandchildren) a good value for their investment.

If Tullman was unaware of the highly critical HCPlexus-Reuters study when he assured InformationWeek that his subsidized product has value in the marketplace, he must have been aware of the disappointing news concerning two other recent studies performed by Public Library of Sciences (PLoS) and Stanford which also confirm that EHRs do not improve care. So imagine what it’s like to be one of Tullman’s new, naïve and trusting customers who are expected to use the product for something it’s not designed to do.

My Opinion 

It’s my opinion that Tullman’s apparently incorrigible business ethics have no place in the land of the free, and that more transparency in healthcare would help protect the nation from such politically-connected tyrants. Tullman, a long-time Chicago friend of Barack Obama and a Wall Street sweetheart, would still be just another domesticated CEO if it weren’t for the bi-partisan mandate for electronic health records that help Allscripts, Obama and Wall Street more than clueless patients.

Assessment 

If you want to seriously cut costs in US healthcare as well as cut our grandchildren’s taxes, demand transparency from not just the doctors and patients, but from stakeholders as well. Protected communications between good ol’ boys in healthcare are hardly diplomatic cables about military secrets and always increase the cost of healthcare.

Conclusion

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Inviting Debate with eDR Stakeholders

An ME-P Exclusive – Almost

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

I really, really love being provocative in my neighborhood that I know so well. It just doesn’t seem fair. In fact, for five years, I’ve watched the electronic dental record [eDR] market very closely, and I tell you, something big is moving under the radar. If you recall, in the last couple of weeks I brought your attention to unexplained interest blips appearing on the Medical Executive-Post www.MedicalExecutivePost.com concerning eDRs. I suggested that Internet interest in the topic following years of silence from even the ADA, could be a sign that important news about electronic health records in dentistry may be breaking soon.

CCHIT Seeking Comments 

Just a couple of hours ago, Andis Robeznieks posted “CCHIT seeks comments on specialized EHRs” on ModernHealthcare.com.

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20101119/NEWS/311199996/#

Robeznieks writes: “The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology has opened a public comment period for its proposed oncology and women’s-health electronic health-record certification criteria and test scripts. The comment period will end December 10th at 5 pm CT.”

Meaningful Dental Use 

Is it possible that following the establishment of “meaningful use” guidelines for these specialists, dentistry could be next in line? The nature of the approaching bolus of news concerning eDRs is pure speculation, but rest assured I’ll be right in the middle of it – which brings me to the next sign that eDR stakeholders are getting restless: An almost unheard of conversation about eDRs appeared today on the Internet. Since the only news about eDRs on the Internet are press releases from Dentrix – the largest vendor in the nation – conversations about value of electronic dental records only rarely break out. But, when they appear, I always try my best to be provocative – just to tease out new rationalizations I might have otherwise missed.

I think I found promising opportunity this morning following an article by “John” titled, “EMR Stimulus Q and A: EMR Stimulus Money and Dentists.” It was posted yesterday on the EMR and HIPAA blog.

http://www.emrandhipaa.com/emr-and-hipaa/2010/11/18/emr-stimulus-q-and-a-emr-stimulus-money-and-dentists/comment-page-1/#comment-126257

My Comments

I’ve looked into whether stimulus money will be available to dentists. Many in your audience won’t like it, but here’s your answer: 

Dentists will not receive any ARRA stimulus to help pay for electronic dental records – even if a practice is 30% Medicaid as required. For one thing, it’s already too late to collect on the biggest portion of our grandchildren’s money unless the practice can prove utilization of an ONC-certified eDR in a “meaningful” way by this time next year. And, that’s simply impossible because there are no ONC-certified eDRs, and meaningful use has still not been defined by HHS – with help from the ADA. Eventually, someone from the ADA will either have to promote computer busywork as meaningful use, or concede that meaningful use of eHRs in dentistry simply does not exist.

Example

For example, do you want to log on to a password-protected, HIPAA-compliant computer just to notify the lab that you have a pick-up? For dental practices, speed-dial on the telephone – or fax machine – is much more meaningful, and neither requires the dentist to be a HIPAA-covered entity. In addition, none of the conventional ways of communicating put patients’ identities at risk like digital records on a stolen or hacked computer. That’s Hippocratic meaningful.

Digital Drawbacks 

Here’s another drawback to digitalization: Even though electronic dental records are cutting-edge cool, they have yet to show a return on investment for dental practices, and data breaches will continue to make them more and more expensive. Without ROI, paperless is a hobby paid for by clueless patients in higher fees. Bet you haven’t heard that chunk of honesty very often. Honesty about hi-tech non-solutions is repressed even in the ADA because it is so politically incorrect to admit that our dental leaders who misled members were misled themselves by HIT stakeholders and Newt Gingrich. It’s really difficult for high officials inside and outside dentistry to stand up and say, “Oops! We were wrong.”

See: “Is ARRA Stimulus Money for Dentists?”

https://medicalexecutivepost.com/2010/11/16/is-arra-stimulus-money-for-dentists/

Assessment

I happened to post the article on the Medical Executive-Post two days before John’s article was posted here on the EMR and HIPAA forum. I invite you to read it, and tell me what you think. Other than here, nobody talks about these issues. That can’t be good for dental patients.

Conclusion

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