Crunch Time: Meaningful Use Incentives and the Electronic Health Record

Mental health and addictions professionals require tools. For a couple decades, Terry McLeod has been a trailblazer providing those tools in the form of Electronic ...Read More

It’s crunch time for getting in line to collect Meaningful Use incentives, and that can carry a nice payoff or be substantially disruptive, negating most of the intended benefits. Consumers and professionals both to feel the outcomes, both good and “interesting”.

Meaningful Use incentives in mental health and substance abuse treatment mean revenues of over $63,000 per prescribing doctor over the course of five years. If an organization has ten prescribers, they could conceivably pay for an Electronic Health Record (EHR) just out of the incentives.

That’s not where the payoff ends, consumer and professional benefits abound.

A well implemented EHR can improve care simply by delivering the availability of treatment documentation. A lot of agencies treat folks with a team approach. The great benefit of that to the consumer is they get help from specialists in a number of disciplines, and they all know what the rest of the team is doing. If treatment is documented by the line counselor, then the next professional in line, say a psychologist, has a foundation knowledge of what the consumer needs before they go into a session. The psychologist can then refer the consumer to the psychiatrist if medication prescribing is a good idea (also handled electronically so the medication will be waiting at the pharmacy when the consumer gets there). Subsequently, other professionals like nurses and vocational rehabilitation specialists can be involved, and they all know what’s been done before without a team meeting and without picking up the phone, saving time and getting a clear picture with a simple review of the consumer’s EHR.

Agencies who provide care who have effectively implemented the EHR like it because it enables the current staff to help more consumers. Theoretically, better care can be provided to more people by the current staff.

Audits can be easier if the implementation accounts for the needs of the auditors, and at least an internal audit will likely revolve around Meaningful Use incentives. There are also a ton of different government and professional agencies policing consumer care these days, so proving that all of their requirements are met can be a challenge without the ability to sit the auditor at a consumer screen or handing them reports that give them exactly what they want. All this needs to be set up during implementation.

Meaningful Use incentives are offered to assure the effective use of the EHR. By now you’re getting the picture that no matter which software and company an organization of professionals contracts with, the implementation makes the difference between an EHR that’s effective and dismal failure. The agency serving the consumer takes on the responsibility for that effectiveness in deciding to pursue Meaningful Use incentives, using the EHR as a vehicle to help deliver ever-increasing quality of treatment while maximizing efficiency and revenue. Both parties, the agency and their vendor, share responsibility to create a partnership in the interest of a successful implementation. Hesitancy on either end of that equation can lead to a failed implementation, and escape of the desired outcomes.

A number of products out there have matured into solid, well functioning EHRs. Just being able to sell a product that’s compliant with HIPAA and HITECH and meets Meaningful Use incentive requirements is a tremendous feat.

Tons of software companies are striving to enable agencies to meet the first 15 Meaningful Use requirements. For them, the functionality is the thing. Where a lot of software products let shoppers down is the lack of a design tool controlled by the user, cementing the partnership for success. A good design tool these days can make software do pretty much what you want it to do. If it can’t, it’s not a very good tool, is it?

When a shortcoming in a business process that involves the EHR comes to light, the natural tendency for those working with the software is to come up with a better process, which means a change will likely be required in the software. Going to the software manufacturer for programming usually carries a price tag, which agencies want to avoid…it can put the finance folks ill at ease. It’s much better in their eyes to have somebody who’s already collecting a paycheck design the solution to that faulty business process, then implement it, then fine tune it, leading to a resolved problem.

There are ton of details involved in an implementation, and in order to meet requirements for Meaningful Use incentives, fifteen more have been added. Get help.

I’ll talk about these requirements and how they affect both the professional and the consumer soon.

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