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How to Avoid Future Meaningful Use Penalties

Posted by Robert Fallon on Dec 22, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Meaningful UseThis year has been one filled with change, and at times frustration, concerning the HITECH Act and its Meaningful Use Program. The program, that was introduced in 2009, has had setbacks along the way and the CMS is doing all they can to help make this complex transition to EHR as smooth as possible. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services created the Meaningful Use Program to enhance interoperability and improve the quality, efficiency, and security of patient information. The program promotes more effective sharing of information among providers. Being able to quickly obtain medical records from another provider could mean saving time and money on diagnostic and treatment plans that prove to be unnecessary.

Understanding Meaningful Use Will Help You Avoid Penalties

The CMS is doing all they can to make the transition fair and accessible to all practices, but in order to stay updated you really need to pay attention. If you are confused on what this all means and unsure of where to begin, we can help! Our eBook will guide you and your practice in the right direction, and help you understand what it takes to qualify for a hardship exemption to avoid penalties in 2016.  

Or, check out this Interactive Hardship Tool from the CMS to see what actions your practice needs to take!

The CMS divides “valid reasons” for qualifying for the hardship exemption into 4 categories: lack of infrastructure, unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances, lack of control over the availability of certified EHR technology, and lack of face-to-face interaction. Find out if you qualify for an exemption:

  • Lack of infrastructure - If you are in a region with insufficient Internet access or capabilities to comply with Meaningful Use objectives, you can file for an exemption.
  • Unforeseen and/or uncontrollable circumstances - Many practices are subject to uncontrollable circumstances such as disasters, practice closure, bankruptcy, debt re-structuring, EHR vendor issues, and 2014 EHR certification issues and delays. If your practice applies to any of these categories in the years 2014 and 2015, then you could qualify for exemption.

  • Lack of control over the availability of certified EHR technology - In 2014 EHR vendors were required to undergo re-certification of their software in order to attest to Stage 2 Meaningful Use objectives and measures. Many vendors had issues getting certified during the year, so if your vendor was unable to properly provide you with a 2014 system, you may file for exemption.

  • Lack of face to face interaction - This qualification will rarely, if ever, apply to your eyecare practice. Doctors must show a complete lack of face-to-face interactions with patients, or that these interactions and follow ups are so rare that they are not part of the EP’s scope of practice to meet this exemption.

Unfortunately, if you have not been recording any Meaningful Use data to date you are out of luck for completing the reporting process and registration for the 2015 year. The program requires a minimum of 90 days recorded Meaningful Use in your practice, and the final deadline is December 31st. Just relax, take it easy, it will be alright! Even though you are slightly behind this is still the first year of penalizing and will only account for a 1% reduction of your annual Medicare reimbursements in 2015. So instead of pouting, you should take the necessary steps, with the aid of our eBook, to prepare for 2015 and beyond to make sure you are registered or exempt from future penalties.

The changes, crucial deadlines, and regulation confusions surrounding the transition to electronic health records has led many critics to doubt the value and future of the program. It has been a bumpy path, but it is still leading us to the correct destination. One of the largest demographics to support, promote, and request online health records is the 18- to 34-year-old generation. 43% of millennials say they want to access their healthcare portals via smartphone, in a survey conducted by Xerox. This generation could be the key to achieving Stage 2 Meaningful Use patient access requirements.

In its fifth annual survey on the usage of electronic health records, Xerox sees more and more Americans expecting and demanding online access to health data. While aging Baby Boomers are showing keen interest in online access, Millennials are increasingly leading the fight to getting their medical information where and when they want it. Also, they say they'd like more personalized recommendations to improve their health, and tips about additional services from their doctor. This illustrates the growing expectations patients are now holding practices too in today’s technology age, ultimately emphasizing the importance of the Meaningful Use Program. So, while healthcare providers are reluctant and unsure of the program now, it will eventually not only be required by the government, but by patient requests.

Providers who are able to help different generations take advantage of the information available at their fingertips could see gains in Meaningful Use readiness. Also, "educating patients will empower them to participate more fully in their own care while helping providers demonstrate that electronic health records are being used in a meaningful way,” said Tamara St. Claire, Chief Innovation Officer of Xerox's commercial healthcare division, in a press statement. So, while you and your practice might consider the program to be young and confusing, it has the potential to improve the capability of the entire healthcare IT industry and how it functions.

Still need a little more help? Download our eBook to get instructions on how to avoid penalties in the future. 

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Topics: Education, Industry Pulse, EHR Software

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