I recently saw an older document from an EHR vendor that outlined some reasons why a doctor should take part in meaningful use stage 2. They suggested that meaningful use stage 2 would save our healthcare system money, save doctors’ and hospitals’ time and save lives.
All of these are noble goals worthy of consideration. If meaningful use could achieve this triple aim, then I think every doctor and healthcare organization would happily hop on this new triple aim. Let’s look at each and see how meaningful use stage 2 is doing with this meaningful use stage 2 triple aim:
Save Our Healthcare System Money – This one is interesting because many of the doctors I talk to are afraid that this is exactly what’s going to happen with meaningful use stage 2. They’re deeply afraid that meaningful use is really a way for the government to get access to a physician’s data so that they can pay the physician less. You have to remember that if we save the healthcare system money that means that some organization is going to get paid less.
While I think that the fear these doctors portray is a little overstated, it is true that the government wants the data to be able to pay people using that data. One could argue that a doctor doing good work has nothing to fear and it’s only the crooks that are over billing for their services are the ones that have to worry. Although, we know that data isn’t perfect and there will be collateral damage. I would just argue that the government doesn’t know what to even do with the data right now. So, we won’t see this change happen in the near future. We’ll see if they can achieve this goal long term.
Save Doctors’ and Hospitals’ Time – This suggestion is so ridiculous that I had to make it the title of the post. What I think is possible is that EHR adoption can save an organization time, but I think we need to be careful substituting EHR adoption with meaningful use. Sure, the EHR incentive money has pushed EHR adoption forward, but any time savings that has come from EHR adoption has been lost to the meaningful use check boxes that are required.
Save Lives – Once again, with this one you have to balance the idea of EHR adoption against meaningful use adoption. However, I am hopeful that things like clinical decision support, ePrescribing (ie. legible prescriptions) and a myriad of other things can save some people’s lives. This is hard to quantify, track and measure and so I don’t think we really know. I think there are anecdotal stories of times where care was improved and even lives saved because of something in an EHR. Certainly there’s also some evidence that EHRs can make care worse. Although, I think that is usually just as anecdotal as the lives saved. For now, I’d say this is a bit of a wash, but long term I like the potential of what EHRs can do to save lives. Although, I’m not sure that MU will be the basis for the lives saved.