According to an August 3 report, 2,246 eligible providers and 100 hospitals have successfully attested to meeting Meaningful Use (MU) criteria. Among these early adopters was Premier Family Physicians, a family practice here in Austin, Texas. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Kevin Spencer, a board-certified family physician with Premier Family Physicians.
In April, seven of Premier’s eligible providers (EPs) attested for MU. After the mandatory 90-day tracking period, six providers were reimbursed the full early-adopter amount of $18,000. In total, the practice has received $108,000 so far. After their seventh EP attests, the office will be on schedule to receive $308,000 in Medicare reimbursements over the next five years. Not bad for meeting just 15 criteria.
Sure, meeting those criteria does have its challenges. But it’s possible, and there are 2,246 case studies to prove it. That’s why we are running a series to profile physicians that have successfully attested. Throughout our series, we hope to shed light on the best tips and tactics for other providers. At the same time, we want to give recognition where it’s due. Dr. Spencer and the rest of the providers and staff at Premier Family Physicians have worked hard to meet MU criteria. Here are the three key factors that helped them succeed.
1. Choose the Right EHR Software Company
Choosing the right electronic health record (EHR) software vendor is one of the keys to attesting. This is one of the first lessons Dr. Spencer shared inadvertently during the interview. Dr. Spencer and the other providers at Premier use Greenway PrimeSUITE. Not only has Greenway developed a Meaningful Use Dashboard that makes it easy for providers to track compliance, but they also offer a really good training program.
“It was excellent,” said Dr. Spencer. “They put on a MU seminar right at the beginning of the year. We were trained on the things that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) wanted to measure, and how to utilize our EHR to capture the right data.”
Greenway offers support beyond training seminars. Gina Scalapino, the Director of Operations at Premier, shared a few anecdotes about her training experience. She informed me that a Greenway rep shadowed her and provided instruction on how to change her information workflow to document into the Meaningful Use Dashboard.
Of course Greenway is not the only EHR vendor that offers this level of support. There are others taking extra measures to ensure their customers meet MU criteria. But again, the key lesson is to identify one of these vendors right from the start. It will mitigate risks and challenges of the attestation process.
2. Approach with the Right Mindset
Dr. Spencer really gets it, and talking with him was like a breath of fresh air. There are many Luddites still complaining about the shortcomings of EHR technology and the government’s carrots-and-sticks plan forcing them to “adopt or else.” It was refreshing to speak with a practicing physician that understands the benefits of EHRs and that is willing to work hard to reap the benefits.
Call it a sharpen-the-saw attitude. Dr. Spencer and Premier have used the MU attestation process to improve patient care and track and grade their performance.
“We’ve used this process to be an organization that [focuses on] process, workflow and measurements so that we can really attack clinical outcomes, look at our data and grade ourselves to be better physicians going forward.” – Dr. Kevin Spencer
In addition to the post-bootcamp outcomes, Premier’s patients are also benefiting from the practice’s EHR and MU attestation process. They are more educated about their disease state; they have more information available to them, and; they can be more involved in their health care. Patients can also sign up for Premier’s patient portal and check their medication lists, drug allergies, diagnosis and treatment instructions. Currently, more than 10,600 patients have registered, which is a significant level of engagement.
However, while Premier is seeing great returns from attestation so far, Dr. Spencer anticipates most benefits to come from Stage 2 of MU attestation, which is expected to be implemented in 2013.
“I think the next phase will be where we really see great benefit,” said Dr. Spencer. “Where we have information being exchanged with immunization registries between hospitals, specialists and primary care offices. Where we can avoid duplication of services and really take care of people at the right price point.”
3. Embrace the Process
Every practice needs a physician champion to take ownership of MU attestation. Someone to “embrace the process,” as Dr. Spencer and Scalapino suggested. Attesting for Meaningful Use will require behavioral changes, and practices need a campaigner to engage others and drive organizational changes.
Call it “change management” or whatever moniker you’d like to give it. But, it is important to have an individual or team to ensure providers and administrative staff understand the process and take the necessary steps to track MU criteria. They should be the central correspondent with the EHR vendor; the coordinator organizing training sessions, and; the manager articulating the importance of the process and ensuring individuals follow guidelines. It’s critical for a successful EHR implementation and similarly, for MU attestation.
Combined, these three factors helped Premier Family Physicians attest to Meaningful Use.
If you have attested or are currently going through the process, let us know. We’re looking for other providers to interview about their experience. Leave a comment below, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or get in touch through Google+.
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