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Got MU? More on Meaningful Use Incentives

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 amazing how humans invent pet names for concepts…even money: Samoleons, bucks, sheckles, MU.

That last one, MU, is Meaningful Use incentives, a subject near and dear to healthcare’s heart, since it helps pay for all that expensive Electronic Health Record (EHR) software and the effort to make it work efficiently and effectively. The EHR is intended to keep better records, thereby helping treatment professionals work as a team with consumers, whether they work for the same facility or not. The EHR is evolving into a tool delivering better access all treatment records, as long as the consumer signs a release of information form.

The MU delivers cash incentives to assure the professionals are using the EHR in a meaningful way, to guide treatment into productive, healing directions. There are rules, and the first set of rules, the 15 core objectives of Stage 1, are supposed to be on line now, following a strict timeline to speed up the process of getting the EHR working and accepted nationwide. The core measures are technological assurances that Meaningful Use incentives (our tax dollars) are invested wisely.

Progress has been a little slow.

Professionals feel the timeline has been too aggressive, or don’t want to spend the money, or don’t think it applies to their treatment discipline…pick one or more. The fact is, professionals who saw the opportunity are collecting checks. It’s all in how you work with the system.

In response to the slow EHR acceptance and in order to encourage more organizations to ramp up their EHR, The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has announced a year’s delay to meeting Stage 2 of Meaningful Use (http://humanservicesspotlight.com/2011/12/01/hhs-announces-intent-to-delay-stage-2-of-meaningful-use/) so more people can implement their EHR to meet the Stage 1 requirements. Got that? Good, because it can be confusing. There are three Stages, and not room here to discuss it all in this discussion, so let’s stick to some early benefits and the aforementioned reason why Stage 2 has been delayed.

In line with our president’s primary EHR reasoning, MU has created 50,000 jobs so far in Healthcare IT. That can’t be bad.

OK, so what’s the big deal? Well, the Stage I core measures are the easy ones. Most software vendors of any significance can meet these requirements to collect the incentives already. You’ve probably seen some of the elements in your friendly neighborhood mental health center or your primary physical health physician’s office. These core measures include activities like electronic prescribing, which cuts the time to order medications and virtually eliminates medication errors that can be harmful or even fatal. One Stage I “Menu Set” measure assures that your information can be shared electronically among your professionals offering care, so the primary physician and the psychiatrist will offer supportive therapies instead of contrary ones.

Stage II objectives include some elements that may not be very tough for the software manufacturer to include, but to implement the software into the workplace is a chore. The hope is that the benefit exceeds the pain to get the functionality up and running. Another day, we’ll examine Stage II objectives.

The jobs created in healthcare and information technology make the expense worth the effort of meeting both the Stage I and Stage II requirements. The MU incentives can pay for an entire EHR and its implementation over the course of the five year period professionals collect the payments. And ultimately there’s one outcome that can’t be seriously denied.

When a professional has access to more health information about a consumer, she’s better able to treat the consumer. When professionals have outcome measurement tools that can be measured nationwide with de-identified data, treatment can improve. When professionals work together, the consumer gets more comprehensive and effective treatment by treating the whole person.

All this and samolians? What a deal!

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