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6 Things Providers Can Learn from Year 1 of Meaningful Use Stage 2

by Allison LaValley, Executive Director of Clinical Performance

With the first year of Meaningful Use Stage 2 officially behind us (2014 attestation officially ended March 20, 2015), we are excited to announce that athenahealth providers rocked their first year of Stage 2:  participating providers using our electronic health record, athenaClinicals, had a 98.2% attestation rate. 

Some of you may be wondering how these results were possible given all the industry reports claiming insurmountable challenges for providers in meeting the more advanced Stage 2 program requirements.  Well, our providers struggled at first too. Despite our 2014-certified Complete EHR, extensive client-facing training, and communications around best practices, many of our providers were tanking on measures that were “new” in Stage 2. 

There was a lot to learn, and it wasn’t easy for providers or our team. And knowing that we have more providers transitioning to Stage 2 in 2015 than 2014, there is less room for error and more attention being placed on what we all can learn, and improve upon, from 2014: 

  1. Meeting the increased thresholds for Stage 1 measures like e-prescribing and clinical summaries is likely the least of your worries.
    Yes, you may need to get a little more consistent here, but you know the drill so don’t skip it. Just do it.
  2. Patient Engagement requires change management within your four walls.  Your practice needs to change its mentality around communicating with your patients outside the office. Without this adjustment, you won’t succeed, no ifs, ands, or buts here And considering that patients want more and better ways to interact with your practice outside of their office visit, instilling these policies will benefit you beyond Meaningful Use, helping you to improve the patient experience.
  3. Even if you build it, they may not come (patients, that is). Even the most amazing looking online patient portal won’t ensure you’ll meet Stage 2 patient engagement measures like View Download, Transmit and Secure Messaging (we know, we made a ton of usability improvements to our patient portal). After all those improvements, many providers were still struggling to meet the patient engagement measures. 
  4. Patients listen to their physicians. 
    We found that the most successful way to meet the View Download, Transmit and Secure Messaging measures was for providers to  ask their patients to use the portal to view health info and communicate with them electronically. To assist, we sent messages to thousands of patients on behalf of  providers, asking them to do just that. This simple request, in the words of the provider, enabled hundreds of providers to surpass the 5% thresholds for these measures.
  5. Maintain documentation for audit purposes. 
    We’re already seeing audit requests for Stage 2. Our EHR offering includes full Meaningful Use registration, attestation and audit support for our clients (meaning we do all the heavy lifting, as promised), so we’ve got them covered on all fronts. But Stage 2 brings new audit documentation requirements so make sure you know what the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) auditors are looking for. 
  6. You may still need coaching from someone who’s overcome these challenges.  Our improved workflows for practice staff and patients still weren’t enough for all providers to meet the program requirements. For these providers, we doubled down on our efforts via our Meaningful Use Coach program, sharing success stories, tips, tricks and data-driven best practices. 

I encourage you to keep these half-dozen lessons in mind as you’re performing in 2015. Bookmark this post, print it,  pin it up, whatever you need to do. And then, if you’re with athenahealth, leave the rest to us.

In addition to our Meaningful Use Guarantee, in 2015 we’re extending our Guarantee Program to include value-based reimbursement for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

The ultimate goal of Meaningful Use is better care for patients and better outcomes, and the PQRS, value-based payment modifier and MSSP are all aligned.  And we’re all-in to help our clients demonstrate their ability to deliver high quality care and improve patient outcomes. 

Want more details on how we’re approaching the PQRS and value-based payment modifier programs – and what they mean to you? Stay tuned for a new blog post in April.

For information on our new Guarantees, watch these short video clips:
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