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Has Meaningful Use Already Lost All Meaning?
By Cynthia Porter
The release earlier this year of expanded meaningful use requirements has gotten the healthcare IT community in quite a tizzy. The phrase was on everyone’s lips before, during, and after HIMSS. It was obvious to me
- Everyone has a strong opinion about it;
- Not everyone understands it; and
- The recent passing of healthcare reform has left providers extremely anxious about how they and the vendors they do business with will comply with “it”, depending on what “it” ultimately turns out to be.
I know for a fact that hospital executives’ concerns about their institutions’ abilities to meet requirements and the overly aggressive timetables released as part of the expanded meaningful use requirements has increased exponentially since 2009, when the HITECH Act was initially released.
Nearly 80 percent of 150 hospital executives recently surveyed by Porter Research noted an increased rate of adoption for e-prescribing, patient portals, and EHRs. That’s a 20% increase from 2009, before the expanded requirements were published. So it’s safe to say that providers are jumping on the bandwagon.
Most, however, are worried that the wheels are going to fall off because vendors won’t have enough qualified employees and/or up-to-date resources to meet demand and requirements. One CIO we interviewed believes vendors “will be forced to spend more programming hours around the interoperability and security of their software versus the primary function, which is taking care of patients and making it easier for clinicians to utilize.”
And there’s the rub. Sure, the healthcare IT community will probably benefit from the political machinations going on in Washington, but will the patients? Will vendors rush to provide hospitals with technologies that could have used a few more months of development and trial? Will hospital staff have time to adequately train their IT people to use these new technologies? Will patients pay the price for a rush job?
It’s unfortunate that time will tell, because time is one thing patients don’t have.
Cynthia Porter is president of Porter Research.
Health Reform, Schmealth Reform – Freakin’ Pay Me
By Gregg Alexander
Down here in the primary care trenches, where the pudding meets the pavement (or some such mixed analogy), no matter how much we may want it to, health reform doesn’t seem like it will ever really get to addressing our needs.
What do I mean by that? Simple enough: it is getting virtually impossible to justify staying in traditional primary care any more and, health reform or no, HITECH or no, Congress just walked away and forgot about me and mine.
Despite our efforts to help bring the best we can to those we serve, what do we get? People, be they private insurers or Medicaid, self-pay or no-pay, hospitals, and even IT folks, all telling us what we can and can’t do. We’re told when we are and aren’t allowed to make medical recommendations based upon our knowledge and experience and then we’re told just how much we’re allowed to charge for our expertise. (Disregard whether or not we’ll even get paid anything at all for our time and trouble.)
We fight to get what we believe is appropriate care for our patients, regardless of their insurance or lack thereof. We struggle to make ends meet so that we can offer the advantages of a quality medical home and, perhaps, digital healthcare information management to our patients. We work far too many hours, away from our family and friends, just so we can feel good enough to sleep at night knowing we have done our best to help those who come to us for care.
And then…and then…Congress goes on break before postponing a 21.3% cut in Medicare payments. (Thank you, Senator Tom Coburn, R-OK.) Whether or not they repeal it when they return, CMS will likely withhold payments for at least 10 days before beginning to process those 21.3% reduced payments. For those affected, continuing this Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula is anything but sustainable and quite the opposite of growth.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re not already aware, we have a shortage of primary care providers in America. Pushing us toward expensive technology adoption which may or may not truly be ready to really meet OUR needs while reducing the bottom-of-the-barrel payments with which we already struggle, is not going to solve any little piece of our giant healthcare crisis. It will make it much worse as more and more of us leave for less stressful and less beyond-our-control professional lives. All the while, we’ll leave little encouragement for the med school up-and-comers who will doubtful choose to join the ranks of careworn primary care.
Let us worry about dealing with the pressures of making medical decisions and allow us a reasonable income which doesn’t add to the strain. Elsewise…well…how long would you stick around after a 21% pay cut?
From the (weary) trenches…
“Pay me for my work, but I don’t do it for the money.” – Vanna Bonta
Dr. Gregg Alexander, a grunt in the trenches pediatrician, directs the “Pediatric Office of the Future” exhibit for the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a member of the Professional Advisory Council for ModernMedicine.com. More of his blather…er, writings…can be found at his blog, practice web site or directly from firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Just In: HIRE Bill Signed! Could Hiring Tax Breaks Benefit Your Organization?
By Tiffany Crenshaw
On March 18, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE). HIRE is a $17.5 billion jobs bill that the President says will bolster hiring and incent business owners, creating approximately 250,000 new jobs.
The bill was dramatically scaled back as it passed through the House and Senate, from $150 billion to less than $20 billion. Still, lawmakers say it is the first step in a series of bills designed to encourage job growth.
The Act offers two tax breaks to companies who hire recently unemployed workers, one in the form of a payroll tax exemption and the other in the form of a tax credit. Beginning March 19 and through the remainder of 2010, employers will not have to pay the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax on qualifying new hires. In addition, companies are entitled to a credit equal to 6.2% of an eligible employee’s total salary (up to $1,000) if that new hire is retained for at least 52 weeks consecutively.
To qualify for the tax breaks, new employees must be hired between February 3, 2010, and January 1, 2011. Each new hire must verify in writing that he or she was unemployed for a minimum of 60 consecutive days just prior to being hired. If the worker is replacing an employee in the same job role, he or she is not eligible, unless the previous employee was terminated for cause or voluntarily quit.
There is no doubt that these incentives may not help all companies, but HIRE is a start that could benefit your organization as well as the nation’s unemployment rate. Companies still experiencing depressed revenues due to economic slowdown may not benefit from the tax incentives, but others may find the tax savings to be a valuable advantage towards savings and growth.
Tiffany Crenshaw is CEO of Intellect Resources.