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Meaningful Use Dashboard Update: An Opportunity to Expand a National Health Information Backbone

by Doran C. Robinson, Vice President of Healthcare Transactions

Today, I’m going to give you a glimpse into athenahealth’s development of a national health information backbone and the nation’s first immunization registry hub. 

Improving public health is one of the core objectives of the Meaningful Use program.  For providers to demonstrate Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, they are required to submit electronic data to either a state immunization or syndromic surveillance registry. As we do with payers, labs, and various other health care supply chain partners, adding state immunization registries to the network has been on our agenda for some time. The onset of Meaningful Use and the public health measure requirement increased the priority of establishing those connections. So in October 2010, we formed a dedicated team to bring them all on board so that every provider would be able to exchange the required data with their individual states and demonstrate Meaningful Use in 2011.

It wasn’t so easy, but we’re building out the athenahealth network all the time. We identified every registry in every state and reached out to them by phone, fax and email to track down the appropriate contact. (Check out this behind-the-scenes video.) Then we worked methodically to scope and build everything required to connect and test with every registry. Apparently we were in uncharted territory. In our travels, we had several conversations with the Centers for Disease Control and it became clear that a comprehensive picture of public health registries and their capabilities did not exist. 

Well, one does now and we’ve got it. Over the course of the past year, we scoped and built an electronic pipe into each state immunization registry capable of supporting one. By building that single connection between athenaNet and each registry, every provider on athenaClinicals has a connection to their state registry. Adding a new provider does not mean a new connection. It can be as simple as subscribing them to the interface – like adding someone new to your Twitter feed. As a part of our core service, we also take the extra step and actually send test messages to the registries for all providers who administer vaccines to ensure they satisfy the public health requirement for Meaningful Use. As of last week, the public health measure had been satisfied for 98% of providers pursuing Meaningful Use. I have no doubt that we’ll be at 100% before the end of the year.

What’s significant about this? Simply put, if you are not on athenaClinicals, you have to build your own pipe once it’s your turn at the registry and do your test yourself. We’ve heard a lot of stories from providers and even other EMR vendors about their inability to get the registries’ attention, or that they’re sitting in a queue waiting their turn.  Providers on athenahealth bypass that line altogether. And not only do we save our providers the hassle of establishing these interfaces as a part of what we do every day, but this will help make medical practices more efficient. Today, providers have to manually enter the record in a separate portal or fill out the information on a paper form for the state. Our solution will eliminate that step. Registry updates can be sent automatically when the provider updates the EMR, also ensuring accuracy and timeliness. And in states that have the capability, a provider can query the registry to understand what immunizations a patient has already received, further reducing redundant work, but also eliminating critical gaps in patient care.

So, it’s a great solution for physicians and patients, but public health agencies also get the data quickly and their data stays current at a lower cost. This is important now for Medicare Meaningful Use but will be even more so for physicians in the Medicaid program due to its large pediatric patient populations and the requirements for childhood vaccinations. It’s another great example of how we are building a national health information backbone that’s creating real value.

We wrote about immunization interfaces this week because in this blog and elsewhere—as in at MGMA in Las Vegas —we have been steadily beating our Meaningful Use drum in the hope that others will share their data too. We want to know how vendors that simply provide EMR software can possibly know how client practices are performing on achieving the measures. Our cloud-based model allows us to know how every eligible provider is performing, not only on Meaningful Use of course, but on claims, patient volume and any other practice performance metrics.

You can explore the dashboard here, but some quick highlights:

  • 58% of our Medicare MU providers have attested, a 10 point increase in two weeks
  • 31% of our Medicare MU providers are within 2 core measures of attesting
  • 88% of our Medicare MU providers have met  5 of 10 menu measures, just under a 2 point increase in two weeks
  • 89% of our Medicare MU providers are now satisfying the clinical summary measure, a 3 point increase in two weeks

At this point in the year, providers are either on their way to meeting Meaningful Use or running out of time. Thanks to the visibility we enjoy as a cloud-based service, we know which (few) of our providers won’t be crossing the finish line this year, providing additional insights into what it takes for ALL providers to demonstrate Meaningful Use. It also allows us to focus all of our energy on those providers who haven’t made it yet, but have a realistic shot at meeting Meaningful Use by the end of the year.

Come back again in two weeks for the latest Meaningful Use Dashboard results.

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