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Moving the Needle on Meaningful Use

by Doran C. Robinson, Vice President of Healthcare Transactions

It’s that time already. We have new Meaningful Use Dashboard data to share.

If you will remember from our initial opening of the kimono back on Sept. 8, we weren’t doing so hot on the measure for clinical summaries, based on our performance information as of August 27. Compared to other measures we could point to with pride, we were limping along with 31.5% of our Medicare Meaningful Use providers satisfying the measure that requires providers to give patients a summary of their visit, within three days of the visit. Two weeks later? It’s now up to 52.1%. How did we do it? First, let’s look at why it was a problem in the first place.

The truth is, we knew clinical summaries were going to be a problem a long time ago. When we released all of the functionality and workflows to our clients in April after our MU pilot, this was one of the biggest workflow changes for practices.  

 This measure faced a set of legitimate behavioral and workflow hurdles:

  • Many providers resisted sharing this level of info with patients for many reasons, including the concern that patients would not be able to interpret the contents or it would be incomplete and therefore misleading. Up until now, many providers haven’t been documenting their encounters with patients as a primary audience for their notes.
  • Providers also told us that in some cases where visits were frequent—such as OB/GYN practices—the patients simply didn’t want a new summary of the visit every time. The difference from the last trip to the doctor was not significant enough to warrant a written explanation they need to take home.
  • The workflow built for certification required the staff to remember to print these out for each patient, once the provider gave them the OK—sometimes yelling down the hall to the front desk that they were ‘good to go!'—as opposed to making it an integrated, required step within the normal encounter. This made doctors feel pressure to push out documentation in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.  
  • There were questions about the security of protected health information, now leaving the office with each patient to end up stuffed in a backpack, under a coffee cup or who knows where.
  • And some doctors—rightly so—pointed out the irony of Meaningful Use promoting the adoption of ELECTRONIC health records with functionality that required them to print out reams of paper for patients.

So how did we go about tackling this for providers? In each of the last few monthly releases we’ve provided to clients via the cloud and across athenaNet, we’ve made the fulfillment workflows easier for the staff and providers. 

First, we improved the provider’s ability to review the information in the clinical summary before it was printed for the patient.  Those changes didn’t really move clinical summary performance as dramatically as we had hoped, and providers still complained about all of that paper.  Then, we gave providers the option to fully eliminate the use of paper by providing a secure electronic delivery option for all patients in our August release. And that clinical summary is made available electronically to the patient as soon as the provider closes the encounter.

That’s what we did. And it seems to be working well. It’s moved the needle 20 points in the past two weeks. And it’s continuing to climb.

Stay tuned. We’ll update the dashboard again in two weeks.

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