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EHRs and Meaningful Use – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

by athenahealth Blogmaster,

A few weeks ago, a blog post on HIStalk caught our attention here at athenahealth. In it, Dr. Lyle Berkowitz provided an account of some hearings before the federal Health IT Standards Committee in Washington, DC.

Dr. Berkowitz was asked to provide his input as an eligible provider about the challenges of EHR adoption and Meaningful Use. As you can see in his blog post, achieving Meaningful Use for many providers has been a serious challenge. As he captures the angst out there:

  • "This is hard"
  • It eats up resources needed elsewhere
  • There are too many unanswered questions
  • There’s a tight time frame
  • "Functionality is not the same as usability"
  • The cost of implementation may amount to more than the bonus dollars
  • Certification requirements don’t always match process requirements
  • Communicating with government agencies can be difficult
  • Even "the biggest and best are struggling with MU"

Wow.

If Dr. Berkowitz’s input is not enough, a stack of testimony from the January hearings is collected here that illustrates not only the challenges to comply but the difficulty doctors are having with many other big vendors. If you like horror stories, it’s worth the read.

By contrast, we were happy to catch up recently with Dr. Lenita Hanson, of Ultra Care Endocrine & Diabetes Consultants in Venice, Florida. She runs a solo practice that’s one of athenahealth’s pilot practices for Meaningful Use certification and shared her experience with preparing for MU (as we like to abbreviate it) with athenaClinicals.

“The Meaningful Use money is on the back end. You don’t get the money until you have the EMR and use it,” she says. “It’s a very interesting time to do this because the resources aren’t there for a doctor to get a loan if they need one to get an EMR. Doctors are in the same boat as small businesses in this country. That’s really the issue. That’s everywhere. That’s what all the grumbling is about.”

Hanson converted from paper charts in 2002 and has never looked back. She reviews charts the night before her patient appointments and she inputs the MU data then. It adds a minute or two to the work for each chart she’s doing anyway but she says the extra step is worth it.

“After a year most doctors should be able to see the benefit of it,” she says. “In the long-term it provides easy access to patient information, quicker access to that information, reminders for patient care and in the end, better patient care.”

She understands why other doctors are frustrated because like any business owner she has to be mindful of expenses and income and now she has to comply with another government requirement. But her experience working with athenahealth and our MU services has been positive to date.

“Many of the measures are already there,” she says. “athena makes it easy. It really does. As far as achieving Meaningful Use, it’s already built into the EMR. It’s easy to achieve Meaningful Use.”

If you have any experiences getting prepared for Meaningful Use – good, bad, or ugly – share them here. We want to hear what it’s been like for you. Send in a comment to the blog.

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