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New Year, New Stage of Meaningful Use

by Liz Dunn, Director of Product Innovation

New Year, new Meaningful Use measures. That’s right, January 1st marked the commencement of the first Stage 2 Meaningful Use reporting period. And what better way to kick off your New Year's resolutions than committing to attest to Stage 2 as soon as possible. With the deadline for the mandated change to ICD-10 coming October 1, athenahealth HIGHLY recommends attesting to Meaningful Use early in the year.

For 2014 only, providers in their second year of Medicare Meaningful Use (or later) will be measured only on one calendar quarter. That gives each participating provider exactly four chances to be successful but, as mentioned, it’s best to get it done in the first quarter of the year, ending March 31, so your practice can focus on preparing for ICD-10. If you’re not taking on attestation for Q1, we suggest shooting for Q2 at the very latest.

We understand this is no easy endeavor, especially with Stage 2’s tougher measures and higher thresholds. Here are a few steps you can follow to help reach the all-important milestone of Stage 2 Meaningful Use attestation.

  1. Create a patient engagement strategy.
    For the first time, providers are on the hook for patients taking specific actions. During the reporting period, 5% of unique patients seen must send a secure message to your practice in order to meet a core measure. Additionally, 5% of patients seen during the reporting period have to view, download, or transmit their health information to a third party.

    If you have a patient portal, you already have the tools to satisfy this measure; but your patients need to actively use your portal. If they don’t, you could be in trouble. Put a strategy in place that not only drives patients to the portal, but also teaches them how to make the best use of this important resource.

    The athenahealth approach: Our cloud-based patient communication service, athenaCommunicator, includes a patient portal (which we brand with your practice name and logo) and automated patient messaging solutions. We even provide helpful tools and resources to help you promote your portal.
  2. Evaluate your Stage 1 workflows to improve your Stage 2 performance.
    The majority of the Stage 1 measures were retained in Stage 2, but the reporting thresholds are now higher. First, get to know the Stage 2 measures and then pinpoint any potential problem areas based on your Stage 1 performance. If, for example, you barely met the clinical summary measure in Stage 1, you'll have to make adjustments to up your game in Stage 2.

    During Stage 1, each provider had three business days to get a clinical summary to the patient; during Stage 2, you have only one business day. Analyze your current workflows and try to identify ways you can close your encounters faster to be able to get the clinical summary to your patients within the one business day deadline.

    The athenahealth approach: By accessing our cloud-based platform, we have visibility into the Meaningful Use performance of every single one of our caregivers. By examining how our network of providers is performing, we can improve our software, make providers constantly aware of how well they are tracking against the measures, and provide coaching for struggling providers.
  3. Don't leave the Security Risk Assessment for the last minute!
    So many providers procrastinate with the Protect Electronic Health Information measure – hey, conducting a security risk assessment (SRA) isn't nearly as fun as e-prescribing or capturing family health history! But wouldn't it be great to get this out of the way early and focus on the other stuff?

    Make sure you understand the measure and allow enough time to conduct or review a SRA within the reporting period. To assist, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recently release a helpful tip sheet .

    Note: The SRA must be conducted within the reporting period for which any provider is attesting. If you have a practice with multiple providers who might want to attest in different quarters in 2014, your practice needs to take on the SRA in every quarter in which a provider is attesting. All the more reason to get all providers focused on attesting as early as possible in 2014. One (quarter) and done!

    The athenahealth approach: As much as athenahealth tries to help take on some of the Meaningful Use burdens, the SRA is the practice’s full responsibility. We provide educational tools and resources to our clients via an online resource (our Meaningful Use Resource Center) to help providers understand the measure.

Hopefully you find these pointers helpful. They're just the tip of the iceberg, of course. We’ll review plenty more information about Stage 2 on subsequent blog posts, so stay tuned.

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