How should a provider approach Meaningful Use?

Of cabbages—and kings— And how does all that focus on Meaningful Use affect ones’ ability to address ICD-10?

And why the sea is boiling hot—and whether pigs have wings. Lewis Carroll, Out of the Looking Glass. It is a nonsense story, one which cannot be argued.

As are Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Meaningful Use (MU)—at least to date. Measured against any reasonable set of standards, except on a one-off basis, the national rollouts of EHR and MU have failed. I expect it will be even more so next year.
You, the public, have the right to comment, and we have the right to tell you why your comments hold no water. I think it is the inverse of you have the right to remain silent, you just don’t have the ability. I am writing about the ONC and the bone they tossed calling for public comment. They are required to provide for public comment in order to remove the N and the P from the NPRM.

Who among us believes the rule making will markedly shift direction as a result of any of the public comments? That is unfortunate for if they were to shift direction they might find a direction. We don’t know where we are going, but we are making good time getting there. Figures suggest a failure rate of EHR implementations of somewhere between fifty and seventy percent. As healthcare IT resources become scarcer, I expect the failure rate to increase. As providers rush into EHR without a detailed strategy simply to grab the incentive money, there will be more expensive failures. More failed EHRs is not a way to measure progress.
The current cover of Government Health HIT magazine depicts a foot race to meet MU. There is no race if there are no entrants. There may be more people on the cover than will actually qualify for the race, even fewer who will reach the end.

We would be better served if the plan for national rollout of EHR were not written on an Etch-A-Sketch. We don’t know what will be included in Stages 2 and 3 of MU. When will fifty percent of providers have an EHR, not just the software, but one that actually boosts productivity? How about 70% or 80%? Ten years? I ask the same question of the Health Information Exchanges (HIEs). Without unilateral adoption there will be large gaps. Will the national network function with these gaps? To what extent? Will the records only make it part of the way from Patient A to Doctor X?

Having not solved the EHR program on their own, and having no viable plan, the government laid the burden of making EHR successful on the backs of the providers. The government tries to offset the burden by offering financial gratuities—and penalties—to the providers. Not exactly the second coming of the Three Wise Men. Trying to hit the ONC’s targets is a little like playing the confidence game, the shell game. Under which shell will providers find the rules, the plan?
What to do?

It is easy to criticize. Permit me to offer a few suggestions. To the hospitals, if you are not well along the EHR path, do not make a difficult effort more difficult by chasing Gossamer incentive dollars. Stick to your plan. You have multiple failure points which three years from now will make chasing those dollars look like a pipe dream. The failure points? Your plan, the implementation, meeting the MU requirements, passing the MU audit. It does not look very promising to me.

To those hospitals which haven’t started their EHR initiative, or are less than halfway through the passing the failure points, don’t cancel your summer vacation. You have a lot more time to get it right then you have to get it wrong. Pay no attention to the man—or woman; even I can have a moment—handing out the Monopoly money. You won’t be receiving any. From where I sit, that is good news. It will cost a lot more to perform disaster recovery on a poor implementation than the funds you would have received by meeting MU.

How long does a hospital spend planning to build a new hospital wing? For large hospitals, the cost of your EHR will likely exceed the cost of the new wing. Plan accordingly. Invest six or nine months building a plan that might succeed.

For medium and small practices and solo providers you have nothing to lose by waiting a year months other than the resource problem. By then you will find very viable ASP and shrink-wrapped solutions.

Those who follow my blog, healthcareitstrategy.com, know I don’t write to garner favorable replies from those who think they’ve already got it figured out. I write for those who because of EHR have difficulty sleeping. Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate your comments and disagreements.

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