Giving Meaningful Use Meaning


Why is your practice considering switching to an electronic health record (EHR)? Is it because of the government incentive program? Are you running out of cabinet space for the hundreds of pages you’re adding to your collection of paper charts each day? Are you looking for the flexibility to access patient records securely even when you aren’t in your office? Whatever your reason, moving to an EHR will have an impact on your practice and the medical sector as a whole.

It’s easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal of the switch from paper to electronic records: to improve patient care, save lives, and decrease healthcare spending. In 2011, 17 percent of the US economy was devoted to healthcare spending. That means that almost $1 out of every $5 generated by our economy went towards a somewhat broken system. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 aimed to change changing the status quo, setting aside $19 billion dollars in incentives under the HITECH Act to encourage providers of medical care (hospitals, physicians, nurse practitioners, midwives, among other providers) to adopt and “meaningfully use” EHR systems. To obtain the incentives, the government required providers to meet 20 criteria items, with checks given out annually and eventually adding up to between $44,000 and $63,750 over 5 to 6 years. Failing to implement an EHR will eventually result in monetary penalties for some providers- a wake-up call for those that think paper charts are here to stay.

Meeting government requirements for Meaningful Use is by no means a straightforward task, but let’s focus on the bigger picture as well. The big goal of this legislation is to get as many practices as possible on an electronic platform that will lead to better patient care and lower costs. A paper chart will never jump out of its folder to tell a doctor that the drug they’re about to prescribe is going to lead to a potentially fatal interaction, it can’t give you a heads up that a patient is due for routine preventive care, nor will it remind a doctor that a patient needs a medication refill. The list goes on and the cost to our economy increases almost exponentially with each shortcoming. An EHR can solve all of these problems, taking a preventative approach to health which allows us to cut down on excessive testing, surgeries, and other costly mistakes that are not possible without a powerful EHR engine underlying our country’s health system.

No solution is perfect, but with Meaningful Use, there is an obvious interest by the government to improve some of the many issues troubling healthcare today. To those jumping through hoops to obtain the incentives-we sympathize with you. With your nose to the grindstone trying to comply with regulations handed down from the government, it’s tough to remember what all of this is really for and why your practice started attesting in the first place-but that’s what we’re here for.

Keep in mind the task at hand: to make our healthcare system more sustainable. Diverting resources away from unnecessary costs will allow us to focus on areas of treatment that really matter. When you have a chance to step back and see what you’ve done after completing your meaningful use goals, you can rest assured that you’ve done your part. It will turn this whole process from a daunting task into something that will have an everlasting impact on the medical sector.

By: Nathan Swartley

Nathan Swartley is an Account Manager for Practice Fusion. Prior to joining the team, Nathan worked at STAT Revenue as a financial consultant to hospitals and medical facilities.