Monday marked the first day of meaningful use attestation for hospitals and eligible providers participating in the federal Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program.
Dr. Chris Tashjian, president of River Falls, Ellsworth and Spring Valley Medical Clinics in western Wisconsin, was the 23rd physician in the nation to complete the meaningful use attestation process. Things went smoothly, he said in an interview with SearchHealthIT.com, especially since all the necessary reporting data was near at hand.
“For us, it was literally transposing the numbers,” Tashjian said. “But everything was just right. I was surprised about how much detail [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] wanted.”
Tashjian’s clinics, which include about 50 physicians in five practices, have been using Cerner Corp. Ambulatory EHR since March 2010. EHR implementation began with e-prescribing; this familiarized staff with basic functionality, such as logging in and viewing a patient’s chart, without having to officially document anything, he said. From there, the remaining EHR functionality was rolled out.
The clinical workflow has since been refined to the point that it’s faster than the previous paper-based system, Tashjian said, noting that he has not written (with a pen, that is) a prescription in more than a year. “I couldn’t imagine going back to paper.”
The biggest benefit to having completed the transition to electronic clinical documentation is the ability to provide patients with notes, vital signs, prescriptions and other information as they are checking out. This has proven particularly valuable for two segments of the clinics’ population — the elderly, who now have up-to-date information to provide to caregivers, and to new mothers, who now have a legible record of their baby’s height and weight. “It becomes part of the baby book,” Tashjian said.
With Stage 1 of meaningful use attestation complete, the clinics are turning their attention to Stage 2. Tashjian has already invested in a patient education system, which provides peer-reviewed information about existing conditions, follow-up care and even physical therapy exercise regimens, and is working to implement IQHealth, Cerner’s patient portal.
Overall, Tashjian described the meaningful use criteria as “very well thought out,” adding, “I think they are steering us in the right direction.” Meanwhile, having an EHR system in place will help the clinics attract new physicians, he said, since today’s medical school graduates are so used to putting technology to use.