In the ‘real world’, love may not last forever, but it appears that meaningful use does, at least for medical practices having a love-hate relationship with the Meaningful Use (MU) program’s requirements. It seems that some of the shine has worn off, with three out of four practioners surveyed reporting spending more time on meeting program mandates while failing to improve hands-on patient care. Why are more doctors reaching these conclusions? What can your practice do to stay on MU track while maintaining quality care?”
Is meaningful use is declining among practices?
Steve Stack, president of the American Medical Association reported that at the present time, 52 percent of all Medicare physicians and providers are receiving a one percent penalty due to not participating in meaningful use. Another 10 to 11 percent of doctors are at stage 2 of the MU program.
Stack believed that one of the primary reasons physicians have shied away from participating in MU is that the program mandates that specific things be done in ways that doctors do not believe helps improve patient care quality. In fact, the mandates tend to make providers less efficient in patient care, creating challenges because as Stack put it “the physician is turned into a typist and clerk.”
According to the Deloitte survey many smaller practices lack both technical and leadership assistance to enable deploying EHR as well as completing changes in the administrative processes. Consequently, they fear that they will be unable to not only maintain activity but to reach a reasonable ROI (return on investment) as well.
Meaningful use: costly, complicated and challenging
Among the 18 percent of physicians who have opted out thus far, a full 70 percent had no future plans to implement MU in their practices. Much of that is due to the fact that the incentive program holds less attraction for those who haven’t begun meaningful use; because it’s an “all or nothing” program, providers need to successfully complete the entire program or incur penalties. This all-or-none approach is not reasonable nor does it make it more likely for practices which have invested much time and money to attempt to fulfill program requirements when there is such a high likelihood of failure compared to the chances of success.
The program’s strict requirements as well as its complexity all serve as disincentives for participation, adds Stack.
The cost of buying and installing expensive software which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars can make implementation prohibitively expensive for smaller practices. Between the overall costs of entry, additional incentives that are difficult to achieve and low penalties, there is little motivation for practices to move beyond stage one, believes Shaun Conrad, a health care advisory manager at Ernst & Young.
What’s ahead for meaningful use?
With CMS penalties beginning this year, there aren’t many options available for those who want to avoid participating. Giving up board certification, Medicare and Medicaid patients, and taking cash-only or moving to a state with no EHR requirements are not options for most practices.
While meaningful use is here for the foreseeable future, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) is taking comments from physicians and others on MU. Providers can contact their specialty organizations as well as state medical associations to become involved in further discussions about American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) mandates.
Partnering with a professional medical claims service can ease some of the MU challenges and reduce the chances of non-compliance. M-Scribe Technologies, LLC, has been helping practices of all sizes and specialties with billing, coding and documentation since 2002. Contact M-Scribe for a complete, confidential analysis of your practice’s needs and ensure your peace of mind from compliance with state and federal guidelines.