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Vacation giveaway aids meaningful use attestation

Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar, Mo. finds success in stage 2 meaningful use attestation with Meditech system.

This is the latest in an occasional series of meaningful use stage 2 attestation success stories. This installment features a Meditech customer.

While hospitals had been lagging badly in the chase to attest to stage 2 of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare's meaningful use program, the numbers are starting to build considerably, with more than 3,000 attestations filed so far, according to the American EHR website, which tracks the process using the latest numbers from HealthData.gov.

Among those vendors that have been certified for 2014 and are finding success alongside their customers is legacy EHR heavyweight Meditech (Medical Information Technology, Inc.), founded in 1969 in Westwood, Mass. as one of the first healthcare information system companies.

Small Town Hospital Successfully Attests

One of Meditech's meaningful use attestation success stories unfolded recently at Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar, Mo., a small city of about 10,000 residents that lies between Kansas City and Springfield, Mo.

The public healthcare system's hospital attested over 90 days in April, May and June, soon after Meditech was certified.

As with most other hospitals and individual eligible providers, the most difficult measures for Citizens Memorial involved transitions of care, or referrals and patient engagement: Getting them to view, download and transmit secure information on a patient portal.

Interoperability: The toughest criteria

CIO Denni McColm said one of the hardest things about the transition of care measure, which entails transmitting secure medical records to another provider not on the Meditech system, was that there weren't many Direct messaging addresses available in the local area. Direct, of course, is the standard of secure health data messaging exchange between providers, which requires registering both the sender and recipient with what can be loosely described as healthcare-specific, HIPAA-compatible email addresses.

Two big hospital systems nearby weren't ready to receive data via Direct, so Citizens Memorial opted to exchange the information with an obstetrician-gynecologist and a cancer specialist who are part of a regional health grant partnership with the healthcare system.

Citizens Memorial bought 50 Direct addresses, at the discounted rate of $125 each, which still amounted to a considerable IT expense for a small, 74-bed hospital.

Karrie Ingram, project manager for the healthcare system, had this advice for others attesting to the exchange measure in hospital settings:

"I'd suggest finding someone using the same HISP [health information systems provider] as you are."

As for the other traditionally tough task -- establishing and using a patient information portal -- it was made easier by a contest involving lucrative prizes including a free vacation trip for the luckiest patients.

ROI worth the time, effort

The portal has already returned some of the investment of time by lessening nurses' workloads, Ingram said. "It's much easier for a nurse to glance at a message than look up a bunch of numbers to call," Ingram said.

Still, it is a challenge to get patients to use the portal regularly, McColm said. She estimated usage is so far between 5% and 12%.

It was pretty much every waking hour. You spend a lot of time getting ready for it.

Even so, McColm said she sees the return on investment (ROI) being worthwhile in the long run.

Meanwhile, Ingram said she worked closely with Meditech in setting up the external data representation (also called XDR) protocol to enable testing of the meaningful use measures.

Some of the easier measures were recording demographic information, doing medication reconciliation and gathering advance directives and vital sign data, the hospital officials said.

"It was a slam dunk," Ingram said.

But it was still a lot of work.

"It was pretty much every waking hour," McColm said. "You spend a lot of time getting ready for it."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, News and Features Writer or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

Next Steps

CMS releases vendor-specific stage 2 attestation data

23 surprises from CMS' meaningful use attestation data

Dig Deeper on Electronic health record (EHR) management

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