Has Meaningful Use Optimisim Run Amuck?

I make it a point to read every article Gienna Shaw writes for HealthLeadersMedia.com.  She consistently captures large amounts of information and packages it into a concise understanding of the material.  In the February issue of HealthLeaders http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/industry_survey/ she wrote a piece summarizing the results from their survey of organizations on their projected timeline for achieving Meaningful Use; Making Meaningful Progress.  I thought it might be helpful to offer readers a bit of a different perspective, something that may cause you to pause and wonder whether I am living on another planet, or whether it is the majority of those surveyed who migrated to Venus.

Were it only that the responses of those surveys were based in reality—the world would be a better place, the Cubs would win the World Series, and my son’s room would no longer resemble an obstacle course.

According to the survey findings, sixty-eight percent of those surveyed expect to achieve Meaningful Use by 2012, and that total climbs to seventy-seven percent by 2013—assuming the Mayan prediction of the world ending the year before prove false.  Things always look rosier when you have the luxury of ignoring other factors prior to answering the question of whether you will achieve Meaningful Use; like whether the EHR implementation will be successful and whether there is enough time to meet the dates they selected.

What else should one be considering when assessing the validity of this unbridled optimism?  Thanks for asking.  Here is my list:

  • EHR Failure Rate:  published data suggests EHR failures range between 30-70%.  If we use a conservative figure of 40% we can see that optimistic forecasts of 77% achieving Meaningful Use by 2013 is wrong by a factor of two.  If forty percent of implementations fail, and seventy-seven percent meet Meaningful Use, somebody needs to check the math.
  • Of those systems that have already failed, many of whom are very notable hospitals, they had the luxury of time.  They had as much time as they needed to fail.  Today we have less time to fail, which to me means failure percentages will increase.  For those who have yet to fail, if your goal is meeting Meaningful Use by 2013, watch out.  If you dash for the cash, plan for an EHR do-over.  Remember, there is a binary trap associated with meeting Meaningful Use—it is all or nothing.  There are no dollars awarded for having tried really hard.
  • When was the last time you tried to hire a very experienced EPIC or McKesson resource?  Recent figures suggest a Healthcare IT resource shortfall of fifty percent.  This shortfall will greatly reduce the number of organizations which have any chance of meeting Meaningful Use by the dates they themselves specified.
  • How’s that HIPAA 5010/ICD-10 project coming along?  A high percentage of organizations have not even started the HIPAA 5010 tasks that should have been completed in 2010.  More money will be lost through not meeting ICD-10 than will have been awarded in the EHR rebate lottery.
  • Once your EHR is implemented, what percentage of your IT resources will you need to allocate simply to meet Meaningful Use’s stage one requirements?  One outstanding hospital found that number to be eighty percent over three years.
  • At least with EHR there are people who have current EHR experience.  There is no pool of ICD-10 been-there done-that resources.  So, where do you allocate your scarce resources, EHR or ICD-10?  Either answer you give yields a bad outcome.

So, what is the best approach for the C-Suite?  Meeting Meaningful Use is not mandatory.  Time need not be your enemy.  Why not implement EHR correctly?  Why not adjust your plans so that instead of trying to squeeze every possible dollar out of Meaningful Use you simply try to make EHR work by 2015?  This way you avoid the penalty and give yourself a decent shot of success.

No ARRA money will be awarded for being optimistic.  However, once you tell the CFO to plan for a twenty million dollar ARRA windfall in 2011 or 2012 you better deliver it because you know darn well that he or she has already made plans to spend that money.

I think if we were to check the results of this survey two years from now we would find that less than forty percent of hospitals will have achieved Meaningful Use by the end 2013.

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