Seize the Opportunity: Making Your Meaningful Use Meaningful
By Linda Lockwood, RN, MBA
In recent weeks, countless stories have appeared in healthcare-industry publications touting the complexities of Meaningful Use (MU) Stage 2 and the challenges ahead. While MU Stage 2 is no walk in the park, turning these challenges into an opportunity to establish the proper foundation at the outset goes a long way to setting up an organization for continuing success throughout the course of the EHR Incentive Program.
A strong MU program is also the basis for long-term quality and performance improvement that goes far beyond MU compliance. Viewed as strategically foundational, it can help health systems survive and thrive in today’s shift from volume- to value-based care delivery and reimbursement models.
Successfully meeting Meaningful Use requires more than just taking on another IT project, checking off boxes, and receiving incentive payments. Rather, a compelling case can be made for adopting a strategic and programmatic approach to enable ultimate success over progressive MU stages. It requires implementing a program with consideration of standardization, improved workflows, documentation at the point of care, interoperability, eCQMs as defined by multiple quality programs, and an auditable defense portfolio that provides evidence of the provider’s compliance and intent.
A full lifecycle looks beyond the initial incentive payments. It employs a comprehensive approach that closes the loop on every aspect of the program. It also establishes the culture and business plans that support improved patient care outcomes and efficiencies necessary to survive in the new, fee-for-value healthcare world.
Taking a programmatic approach to achieving meaningful use can provide foundational benefits in the long run. As we look back at the journey already traveled and ahead to MU Stage 2 and beyond, it is clear that the organizational approach to MU directly impacts future success. Organizations that chose the “easy way out” as a path to financial gain are now facing Stage 2 with increased thresholds, a focus on sharing data and engaging patients, increased emphasis on eCQMs, and realizing that they have significant work ahead.
Organizations that “seized the opportunity” at the outset and invested the time, money, and resources to set the proper foundation for value-based performance improvement are now in the lead with regard to successfully meeting the MU Stage 2 requirements.
If your MU approach was not robust enough, is all lost? Absolutely not. At the heart of every successful MU journey is an organization with a commitment from the top to view MU as a foundational strategy to improve quality and support the goals laid out by CMS. Much has been said about the transitions of care, patient engagement, and quality reporting issues, but what many don’t often talk about is how to position an organization for success. Some key points to consider include:
- Identify and act upon lessons learned
- Embrace a big vision; leverage the MU effort
- Understand the scope and level of effort required; don’t underestimate Stage 2 challenges – thresholds, interoperability, and patient portal and engagement
- Include all stakeholders; align with quality and performance improvement
- Develop program management and governance
- Focus on adoption and change management
- Understand vendor approach; challenge and verify
- Create an auditable defense portfolio and an audit plan
- Budget for upgrades, software and services; understand how this will affect the timeline
- Establish a comprehensive portal plan to include security, access, outreach, content, policies and procedures
- Pay special attention to the Summary of Care – the complexities and the content to include physician documentation for care planning.
Meaningful Use is truly a journey that must be embraced beyond the IT department. To be successful, organizations must employ proactive executive sponsorship that supports the long-term, value-based, performance-improvement vision. Realization of the vision depends on developing and delivering a well-structured program. Organizations that adopt this approach will be aligned for success; they will be the frontrunners in this new world of value-based payment and performance improvement.
Linda Lockwood, RN, MBA is the partner of advisory services at Encore Health Resources of Houston, TX