Thursday, January 7, 2010

Confidence in Meaningful Use

I've been reading through the new KLAS report which looks at how ambulatory EMRs stack up against the expected meaningful use requirements. Eighty-five percent of healthcare providers believe their ambulatory electronic medical record (EMR) software will enable them meet the 2011 meaningful use deadlines being considered by the federal government, according to the report from KLAS "For Ambulatory EMR: On Track for Meaningful Use?" KLAS interviewed more than 1,400 providers about 26 EMR vendors – in order to assess each solution’s readiness to meet meaningful use requirements, based on the guidance provided by the HIT Policy Committee in July 2009.

Despite the confidence, however, providers also noted a number of functional areas that are still lacking. Foremost among these were EMR reporting tools, patient access to medical records and the ability to share key clinical data.

"Reporting will obviously play a vital role in a provider’s ability to meet the proposed meaningful use standards, yet more than 17 percent of providers say reporting is difficult or impossible with their current tools – and another 24 percent report needing specific technical expertise to manipulate the tools provided," said Mark Wagner, director of ambulatory research for KLAS and author of the new report.

"To help their clients meet the substantial reporting requirements for meaningful use, many vendors will need to increase the number and complexity of their canned reports, provide a standalone reporting application or add a third-party tool that can pull the required data," Wagner added.

Also important in the discussion of digital pharmacy orders is the pharmacy itself. While there are performance differences from one EMR to another, the biggest obstacle to date has been a pharmacy’s ability to receive digital transmissions. Most large pharmacy chains are now using systems that can receive transmissions, but many smaller or independent pharmacies lack either the means or the inclination to go digital. Unless meaningful use requires these pharmacies to accept digital transmissions, it could be up to providers to either put pressure on noncompliant pharmacies or discontinue using them.

To learn more about the ambulatory EMR market, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of participating vendors, the report Ambulatory EMR: On Track for Meaningful Use? is available to healthcare providers online for a significant discount off the standard retail price. To purchase the full report, healthcare providers and vendors can visit www.KLASresearch/

The report poses a great question:
Much has been written and even more has been discussed about meaningful use since the passage of the HITECH act. For ambulatory practices, the introduction of HITECH has had two major effects on electronic medical record (EMR) adoption. First, it has effectively derailed many buying decisions that were already in progress. Second, it has compelled many practices that were not previously interested in an EMR to start paying attention. Both parties are now concerned about missing out on available reimbursement bonuses or, worse, paying non-compliance penalties. But with limited time and resources, just how long can a provider organization wait to commit to an EMR vendor and still hope to make meaningful use deadlines?
My suggestion is that we do not wait to start moving forward. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to ultimately achieve meaningful use in by the deadlines. It will be very important to line up vendors and hire necessary staff sooner rather than later, because there will be real competition for resources. The time has come to step up and begin making plans for adoption and implementation of health IT. Sticking your head in the sand leaves your butt exposed...