WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rheumatology practices of all sizes are considering the most cost-efficient and effective ways to achieve Meaningful Use, standards created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to promote the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) systems through incentives and, starting in 2015, reimbursement penalties.
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Standardized recordkeeping, improved communication among providers, exchange of health information to improve quality of care, and better patient engagement and health outcomes are the lofty goals of the program, part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act passed in 2009. Eligible providers may receive bonuses if they switch to EHR systems and begin reporting key clinical quality-measures data and sharing records with patients.
Not everyone is on board yet, but they should be making plans to do so, said Robert Warren, MD, PhD, chief medical information officer at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Dr. Warren spoke about Meaningful Use at a session titled, “The Guide to Meaningful Use and Beyond,” at recent 2012 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, held here November 9–14.
Eligible Medicare providers may now access up to $44,000 paid over five years for achieving Meaningful Use Stage One, which includes implementing EHR systems, reporting certain patient data through coding, and providing patients with copies of their health records. Providers may also take advantage of up to $63,750 in Medicaid incentives, Dr. Warren added.
Meaningful Use is rolling out in three stages. Stage One started in 2012 and 2013 and focuses on incentivizing physicians to install EHR systems and begin reporting key data on patients. Stage Two launches in 2014 and involves more sharing of electronic prescribing and lab results across providers. Stage Three starts in 2016 and includes standards to offer patients more access to self-management tools and sharing data to improve public health.
Too Much Time and Money?
Some rheumatology practices may be reluctant to invest money in new technology or time in training staff to manage the new recordkeeping systems and reporting clinical quality measures, Dr. Warren said. He urged skeptical rheumatologists in the audience to explore web-based EHR systems that cost as little as $100 a month and require no purchase of new software. Web-based systems are also easier to upgrade, he said. If incentive money is not enough of a lure to urge doctors to act now, he noted that Medicare providers who do not achieve Meaningful Use standards will incur 1% reimbursement penalties starting in 2015. Penalties rise to 5% by 2019.