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Engaging with Patients: My Stage 2 Meaningful Use Pilot

by Reavis T. Eubanks, MD

For the past eight weeks, I have been entrenched in what many care providers will soon come to experience: meeting Stage 2 Meaningful Use measures. Many of you may be thinking, “Why on Earth would someone try their hand at Stage 2 any earlier than they have to?” Well, you may recall that I’m the solo, 66-year-old doctor (well, now 67) who conquered Stage 1 Meaningful Use within six months of transitioning from paper to the athenahealth EHR. So I was anxious to see what I was up against the second time around.

Since agreeing to participate in a Stage 2 Meaningful Use testing period from athenahealth, I’ve had to change very little about my workflow and the way my practice is managed. I have only one staff person, with whom I merely discussed Stage 2 prior to this beta. We talked about the areas of our workflow that would need to be watched; particularly those that relate to patient engagement, a major focus for Stage 2. As you probably know, patient communication can usually be accomplished via a patient portal, but some of my patients need to have information printed and/or mailed to their home. These are the details that my staff and I discussed the most.

My next step was to determine how to communicate Stage 2’s patient engagement component to my patients. Here’s how I do it with athenahealth tools: I use the letter that athenahealth provided when I started using their patient portal, which outlines the two ways patients can receive a result call. After that, I generate a PIN number, which I put on the letter and then I review the letter with them.

Next, I sign into the patient portal. I review the benefits and details of the portal with patients, emphasizing that lab results will be posted, vital signs will be available, and future appointments can be viewed. I discuss that regular emails are not HIPAA compliant and how to use the secure messaging aspect of the portal instead. Finally, when I log off the patient portal, the log in screen appears and I briefly show patients how they can sign in on their own.

This process has really not been difficult, and it has been well received. To those patients without computer experience, I still send a letter and a copy of lab work or an x-ray repost. As an added benefit to me, since it is much easier to send out those lab/x-ray reports via the portal, I have a vested interest in the patient understanding and embracing the online system. As suspected, in my experience, this has been much easier for younger people who are more technology savvy and more likely to have internet access. After 2 months, I’m satisfying not only the View, Download, and Transmit measure (actual performance more than five times the goal rate) but also the Secure Messaging measure (actual performance more than twice the goal rate).

Stage 2 Meaningful Use measure thresholds have most certainly increased, there’s no denying that. But let me serve as an example of someone already in the trenches of Stage 2 and living to tell the tale. You can do this.

Dr. Eubanks is an athenahealth client and a physician in Asheville, NC.

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Comments

Submitted by roberto vengoechea - Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dr. Eubanks, as a former patient, you are sorely missed. I found you to be the most personable and caring doctor. I truly wish you were still practicing today. I am currently unable to replace your caring ways. Thank you so very much for the care and respect you afforded me. Two things I would like to ask - Can you recommend a doctor with the same high standards of patient care as you have? How can this 'computer illiterate' former patient (shame on me), gain access to my past medical records

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