As he worked through the measures in the spring of 2011, he also found that meeting Meaningful Use has proven "very beneficial" to patient care because the required steps can open up dialogue that did not previously exist.
Eubanks always made it a practice to meet with new patients in his office before their first exam, but now he has a second meeting afterward to go over his thoughts and treatment plan. And to address one of the Meaningful Use measures, he also provides a clinical summary so patients leave the office with an account of their visit in hand.
"I don't want to just tell you smoking is not good but it's not good because you also have vascular disease or diabetes or whatever and then be able to point to a program in the community," he says. "Some people are really looking for an opportunity to get help."
He values the steps for medication reconciliation, weight checks and electronic prescriptions that are required as part of the Meaningful Use measures. Also, a section of the clinical summary reminds him what he has not yet done to satisfy any measures. He's found that providing patients with pertinent information from HealthWise has been easy. He also finds the EHR very adaptable to his (very recently paper-based) workflow.
"In essence, I think it's a good idea and if we embrace it, we can help our patients and help each other," he says.
Keeping a Promise and Covering Costs with EHR
Eubanks has always enjoyed computers, so attesting to Meaningful Use of his EHR wasn't so much about mastering the mechanics of the computer but the mechanics of the government program.
Despite his interest in electronics, the EHR software he had often seen demonstrated at county medical society events was far too expensive to buy. Before 2010, he had no idea that a cloud-based service like athenahealth existed. All he had heard were "horror stories" from local colleagues who spent $60,000 on EHR software, only to learn later that it was not certified for Meaningful Use. Those doctors had to start over.
For Eubanks, the cost of software solutions would have turned him away and left him with his paper charts. "As a solo practitioner, that would not have been a very doable thing. At this point in my career and being solo, it makes much more sense to do something that's web-based as opposed to something with a lot of up-front costs," he says.
Years ago, his own child required care at the Texas Children's Hospital. It was an eye opener for him as a parent, and from then on, "my goal was to be available for my patients."
Now, the anytime, anywhere access and convenience of being on the cloud-based EHR, athenaClinicals, has allowed him to stick to his promise.
"It's concise. It's available. If I have a patient calling me at home I can pull up the record at the house. It's so much easier," he says. "The whole thing has been very rewarding."