Embarking on the Meaningful-use Path

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Jim MorganReynold YordyHow elusive is the goal of meaningful use among imaging groups? We know of only a handful of US radiology practices that have qualified. Relying on in-house talent is a great way to get it done, but not many practices have the personnel needed to research the complexities involved. Selecting and deploying the correct technology, and then attesting to receive incentive payments, are no small tasks.

A meaningful-use consultant can be an excellent idea, and there are regional extension centers throughout the United States designated to help with this, in addition to a list of consultants available at www.radiologymu.org. Even with a consultant’s help, many staff members might look at the new responsibilities and quickly conclude that meaningful use is just one more task that they must do for the benefit of the radiologist’s wallet.

To avoid this dissatisfaction, emphasize that the overall CMS plan is to improve the quality of patient care and reduce redundant and unnecessary procedures. In addition, staff members should know that there are potential cuts in reimbursement for noncompliance (a penalty that helps no one).

Meaningful-use FAQMeaningful use is a government initiative, created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, designed to encourage providers to use health-care IT solutions to improve the quality of care while lowering costs. The initiative provides incentive payments to eligible providers using a certified electronic health record in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, some groups are just focusing on how to avoid penalties and get their electronic health record (EHR) incentive payments—disregarding the overall effect on the practice. Stay away from this line of thinking,and view, instead, the meaningful-use mandate as an excellent time to select the best RIS to run the practice.

In your search for a RIS, choose a vendor that has complete EHR certification and a clear roadmap for meaningful-use completion by the end of the year. The functionality of the RIS should be the core focus, with the EHR as just one requirement.

Many Radiologists Qualify

Resist the temptation to dismiss meaningful use as something that does not apply to your practice. Many more radiologists qualify for the program than analysts originally thought. Because hospitals bill out a great number of imaging exams with an outpatient place of service, even many hospital-based radiologists will qualify.

Who Is Eligible?
  • If 10% or more of your patient encounters are not coded as inpatient or emergency-department encounters when you submit your claims to CMS, then you may qualify for the CMS incentives.
  • To determine which radiologists qualify as eligible professionals, visit this CMS site.

If meaningful use applies to your practice (and it probably does), be aware that you can choose to bypass stage 1 and wait for stage 2. Proposed rules for stage 2 requirements were posted to the Federal Register on February 23, 2012, and will be open for public comment for three months.

The proposed rule would require practices that attested to meaningful use in 2011 to spend an extra year in stage 1, and would delay the start of stage 2 attestation until 2014. Practices that choose to wait will sacrifice some incentive money, but they could have fewer headaches. If you decide to wait and begin to attest in 2014, we believe that you can start immediately under stage 2 guidelines. As proposed, it appears that these guidelines will be a bit more relevant to what a radiology practice actually does. Nonetheless, it would be imprudent to make a decision based on a proposed rule.

What Is Required?
  • Register each qualified radiologist as an eligible professional.
  • Purchase and implement a certified complete electronic health record. Synapse RIS(FUJIFILM Medical Systems USA, Inc) is on track for certification in July 2012 to enable providers to qualify for incentive payments in 2012.
  • Begin use of the product for attestation while achieving the minimum thresholds for measures to be reported.
  • Submit attestation data.

An additional stage is anticipated but it has yet to be defined. We know that application vendors will be required to upgrade their software continually to meet the latest criteria, and providers will be required to meet and attest to new requirements and measurements. Therefore, selecting a long-term partner with a proven track record is important.

Penalties and Rewards

Why did so few