When Meaningful Use Isn’t That Meaningful

Posted on March 1, 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.

As you know, I regularly like to highlight some of the best and most interesting comments on my various websites. Especially since I know many of you don’t read all the comments (shame on you). This comment on meaningful use comes from someone who identifies themselves as SoftwareDev and works for an EMR vendor:

Coincidentally, I actually came up with the exact same conclusion [see original post] when reviewing the specs the other day. What I mean is, I identified that the way that we track “problems” in our software serves our customers well, but doesn’t really meet the measurement method of Meaningful Use.

In my app, I can record a “problem” using an ICD-9 code on the patient record (chronic) as well as on the visit (acute/episodic, based on Dx attached to the charges posted for that encounter). I also track descriptive (non-standardized) phrases in our Medical History. The former is good because it meets the standardized terminology requirement, but it fails because I don’t keep a “history” of active, or inactive problems. The latter is good because it is more “all encompassing”, including problems that the patient isn’t actually being seen by this particular doctor for, but also fails because it isn’t recorded by ICD-9 code and descriptor.

Either way, I have to revise the software’s method of recording “problems”, both for historical purposes and for proper coding, and ONLY to meet the Meaningful Use requirement. Not a single customer has ever voiced a request remotely like this to me in my 12 years of handling software in this sector.

Descriptions like this is why I’m concerned about the impact of meaningful use. There’s little doubt that the EHR incentive money has stimulated interest and even purchasing of EMR software. I just wonder what unintended consequences will come from meaningful use and EHR certification. Sadly, the above description may meet meaningful use, but doesn’t sound like meaningful patient care.