Meaningful Use at SIIM 2011

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Cat VaskoThere was one thing on the minds of the attendees and exhibitors at last week’s SIIM 2011 meeting, and it wasn’t the Scripps National Spelling Bee taking place down the hall (although the kids were undeniably adorable). It was, of course, meaningful use, the two words none of us ever want to hear again, but seem fated to hear over and over until at least 2016.

Dr. Keith Dreyer gave an excellent address outlining the impact of the provisions for both eligible professionals and vendors – look for more on that in the forthcoming summer issue of RBJ. The long and the short of it is that radiology’s eligible providers – or EPs, in the snappy parlance Dreyer used in his talk – will not be able to get around acquiring or in some way accessing the technology to fulfill meaningful use’s requirements, even if they never use it. MGH’s response has been to build its own technology, but that’s a move that’s out of many providers’ leagues.

That means vendors are under the gun to provide radiology EPs with the technology they need to collect on the incentive dollars, and, eventually, avoid the penalties. One revealing session invited three vendors—Carestream, GE Healthcare and DR Systems—to share their ongoing responses to the new demand. All three emphasized not only the goal of rewriting thousands of lines of code to update their solutions, but also that of maintaining productivity and workflow efficiency while achieving certification. “Do not sacrifice efficiency to gain certification,” advised Carestream president Diana Nole. “Achieve both.”

On the show floor, talk at the booths inevitably turned to the same topic: what are vendors doing to help radiology EPs reach the MU finish line? Siemens has an interesting approach: by utilizing the pre-existent “interactive documents” feature of its RIS, radiologists, technologists and referring physicians can contribute to documentation of smoking history and other puzzling-to-radiology MU requirements without having to update the information system at all.

Modular certification appears to be the most popular route among the vendors, although the larger vendors with footholds in hospital information systems as well indicate that combinations of their modular products will eventually add up to full EMR certification. As Dreyer noted in his talk, “Vendors are learning this at the same time we’re learning this.” The accelerated timeline mandated by ARRA means everyone is scrambling to catch up.

By the way, it’s not all bad news for radiology. As of just a few days ago, the ONC working group has decided to develop some specific recommendations for MU for specialty areas of medicine – and they specifically cited medical imaging as an area to which they’ll be giving their attention. “It’s very encouraging now that they’re seeing that they have to address medical imaging to really have a complete EHR meaningful use solution,” Dreyer noted.