5 Ways Meaningful Use Will Change Your Practice

Posted on March 29, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I love the title of this post since it uses the word change. People when they see change start to get really concerned. For some reason we don’t generally like change. We often like it after the fact, but rarely want to engage in change. I’ll be the first to tell you that implementing an EMR requires change. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably has something to sell you. Certainly some EMR require more change than others, but they all require a change.

The American Medical News put out an interesting article discussing what they said would be 5 ways meaningful use will change your practice. Here’s their 5 ways and my commentary on each of the items:

Patients will be more involved in their care – Certainly meaningful use has some requirements that encourage the sharing of clinical information with the patient. I expect in future meaningful use stages we’ll see even more sharing of the clinical information with the patient. However, I don’t really see this sharing as translating to a more involved patient. Tons of people miss incorrect charges on their bank account and credit card statements and they have all that information. I’m sure the same will happen as patients get access to this information. Many won’t care to look and many of those that do look won’t have much of an idea what they’re looking at.

With this said, there is a general movement to the active and involved patient. Combine the easy access to health information (good and bad information I might add), the easy social interactions amongst patients (ie. asking your friends on Facebook), and other changes we see in society and the patients will be more involved going forward. I just don’t see meaningful use being a huge driver for this.

Doctors will find it easier to see how they’re doing – Ummm…this seems way off base to me. First, because it’s pretty hard to define “how they’re doing.” So, it makes it hard to talk about. Let’s just focus on the meaningful use measures. Does anyone really think that tracking the meaningful use measures is going to make a doctor better at what they’re doing? Can they really be used to measure how well a doctor is doing? I guess I just don’t think meaningful use is the right “report card” for doctors.

Physicians will collaborate more with other doctors – Stage 1 definitely does little to help this happen more efficiently. We’ll see if stage 2 or 3 takes it much farther. Although, if stage 3 takes it too far, I imagine many will opt out of showing meaningful use for stage 3 since the payouts are so small at the end of the EHR incentive money.

Long term, having an EMR will facilitate collaboration and information sharing amongst doctors. However, we don’t have the highways for that information built yet.

Physicians will pinpoint practice inefficiencies – This feels a little like the second one to me. However, it’s worth also pointing out that I think it would be a very difficult argument to make that meaningful use somehow makes a practice more efficient. I could certainly make an argument (which I’m sure many would love to argue against) that an EMR can make a clinic more efficient, but not meaningful use.

Physicians will need a firmer grip on data security – MU stage 1 has little HIPAA requirements and I don’t expect MU stage 2 and 3 to change that. There are some privacy and security requirements in the EHR certification that try and take data security and privacy in an EMR to the next level. Also, the HITECH act has provided some “teeth” to the enforcement of HIPAA which it never had before. I still think we need a few more clinics to get “bitten” by it to really understand what the requirements are going to be and how they’re going to enforce it.