How Hospitals Can Gain Support for Meaningful Use Initiatives

Meaningful use can benefit hospitals not only in being compliant with federal regulations, but also with earning incentive payments and improving care coordination. According to a CMS official, the government has paid out approximately $400 million in electronic health record meaningful use incentive payments to date. The breadth and complexity of the project, however, makes it difficult for hospitals to achieve meaningful use alone. Health information technology consultant Christine Kelly of CMK Consulting offers advice on how hospital leaders can gain support both outside and inside the hospital to achieve Stage 1 of meaningful use.

Q: What support organizations are the most important to build relationships with for Stage 1 of meaningful use and why?

Christine Kelly: If you are a primary care practice, then the best thing you can do is contact your local regional extension center. They can guide you through the purchase process, sometimes with discounted pricing, but certainly point you toward a product that is certified by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology and help walk you through the process with a project plan, as well as provide a reliable source of information related to legislative updates. If you do not qualify to participate with a REC, then I suggest that you consider working with a consultant who has experience guiding practices toward meaningful use success.

Unfortunately, you can waste a lot of time going in the wrong direction because you don't have the experience, but if you hire carefully, an experienced consultant can save you time and money long term. If you already own a CCHIT-certified product, then look to your software vendor for ideas and to find information from CMS.

If you are in the middle of a software implementation, then make sure you keep your software trainer's contact information and find a consistent support person who will be willing to help you at the software company. One of my clients, who purchased from Sage, said that having that ongoing support from the vendor was key to achieving Stage 1 of meaningful use.

Q: How can hospital leaders build these relationships?

CK: If you find someone on the other end of the phone that you work well with then make sure to thank them for their help, ask for them in particular when you call in for help and make sure to pass on their good work to their supervisors. A kind word goes a long way and software support people are usually always willing to go the extra mile when someone goes out of their way to be nice to them. It sounds so simple, but it really works.

Q: How does engagement of every single person in the hospital help achieve meaningful use?

CK: There are usually a lot of workplace behaviors and operational changes that need to take place when undertaking something as technical as meaningful use. It's not just physicians charting electronically, but front desk staff gathering information they've never had to collect before, nursing staff charting routine questions that they haven't charted before; generally, from an operational standpoint, the entire patient encounter is revamped.

Oftentimes, change is uncomfortable and can be difficult if you don't have buy-in from everyone involved. Explaining the desired outcome of improved patient care can be a lot more palatable than just going through the motions for a cash prize. If [physicians and staff] understand how the structured data they are collecting can help on the back end to improve patient care, then everyone is more likely to be willing to participate and make the necessary changes to procedure.

Q: How can hospital leaders engage the employees and physicians in the process?

CK: Engage employees through regular meetings, emails of successes and progress reports to track the success of changes. Remind folks not only why change is important, but solicit their ideas and opinions for how to make the process even better. If everyone "owns" the process, they will be more committed to not just doing it correctly, but to making the whole thing more efficient.

Related Articles on Meaningful Use:

Top 7 Meaningful Use Myths Debunked
ONC's Meaningful Use Director Josh Seidman: MU Less About Technology, More About Patient Care

CMS' Milestone Timeline Alerts Providers to Meaningful Use Deadlines

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