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Opening the Kimono on Meaningful Use

by Jonathan Bush, President & CEO

We’ve had a project here we’ve kept under wraps for the past few months. We call it “Open Kimono.”

The idea is pretty simple. We are providing, on our website, a dashboard view that shows exactly how all of the eligible providers on our network are doing on every Meaningful Use measure. You can view it here, and we’ll be updating it every two weeks so you can check back and keep track of our progress.

Why are we doing this? For athenahealth, this network-wide dashboard view is about providing real transparency on what it takes for physicians to achieve Meaningful Use of an EHR.

In our industry, transparency can be hard to come by, and lately there’s been a lot of talk on Meaningful Use that’s coming out both sides of the industry’s mouth. “Attestation” in this case, unfortunately, ends up substituting for reporting actual performance data. So we have decided to talk out of just one side of our mouth and encourage others in the industry to do the same.

At athenahealth, we advocate for both simplicity and a financial upside for doctors--we try to be the “best in world at getting docs PAID for doing the right thing.” Admittedly, when Meaningful Use first came out we were not huge fans of the program. But since it has become law, we have been going the distance for our clients to get them paid for it.

In the spirit of going the distance and delivering on our Medicare incentive guarantee, starting today we’re releasing the status of how providers in our Meaningful Use program are performing against all the CMS requirements.

If 68.5% are behind on, say, giving their patients written clinical summaries at the end of their visits – one of the toughest measures for providers to achieve – you will know it. In fact, they are – so now you know it! That’s real work for us to do.

As you can see in core measure #7--querying patients on race, ethnicity, and preferred language--4 percent aren’t doing it yet. More work for us to get them over the hump.

Being cloud-based, we not only know where providers are having a hard time, but why they are having a hard time and what we and they can do about it. And, we’re happy to talk to anyone about what we’ve learned. We think this type of real-time learning informed by real-time transparency will help our providers get over the Meaningful Use finish line, not to mention all the other finish lines that are coming up fast behind MU, from Stage 2 to ICD-10, etc.

And what if these gaps are not closed in time? Well, three things will happen:

  • Those clients won’t attest…
  • If we screwed up, we’d have to meet our Meaningful Use Guarantees…
  • And you will know the whole story.

Will other companies take the same responsibility?

Will others follow this example? Without the benefit of having every client on a single cloud-based network, software vendors are going to find this difficult, so maybe they won’t…

And maybe we’ll take all the heat for being honest and showing that Meaningful Use is hard. We’ll see. No turning back now.

Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of athenahealth.

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