Getting to the heart of meaningful use

Achieving meaningful use is the first step in preparing a medical practice for transformational growth and population management, according to Beth Schindele, who has been director of the Delaware Regional Extension Center since its inception in April 2010.

“We look at the process a practice goes through in order for its providers to truly impact patient care,” Schindele told Medical Practice Insider. “The real work begins once the practice has an understanding of what its EHR can do in terms of monitoring the patient population while moving toward goals for patient-centered medical home accreditation or joining an ACO.”

The Delaware REC currently assists more than 1,700 priority primary care providers and specialists, of which about 1,600 have transitioned from paper medical records to an EHR or have upgraded from a basic to a certified EHR. Close to 1,200 of those providers have achieved meaningful use.

In reaching that milestone, providers overcame challenges in completing core and menu objectives for Stage 1 — in particular submitting electronic immunization data to the state registry and syndromic surveillance data to public health agencies.

“There wasn’t an easy mechanism to transmit the data,” said Schindele. “Once that was configured and the EHR vendors created interfaces to allow those capabilities, then it became possible. You have to work through those things, which is what we did … and we continue to do.”

Thus laying the foundation for Stage 2, with its first reporting period commencing in October. Schindele expects that many EHR vendors won’t have their products certified to 2014 criteria at that time, in part because they’re concurrently preparing for the ICD-10 compliance deadline, also in October.

“We have to find solutions so that the goals are achieved in that timeline,” she observed. “There is not going to be a grace period or delay. There may be some exemptions, but we have to move forward with the expectation of achieving Stage 2 meaningful use because it is critically important to patient care.”

The biggest change and challenge for providers in Stage 2 will come with the goal of gaining patient engagement. “We’ll educate patients that HIPAA gives them the right to access their medical records — and we’ll explain how Blue Button technology will make it easy to get them. Once patients have all their own data, they can take it wherever they go and share it with whomever cares for them, whether it is locally, out of state or out of country.”

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