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A Physician's Perspective: Meaningful Use of Health Technology

Jan 5 2012   4:33PM GMT

Will 2012 bring greater confusion or clarity around meaningful use?

Posted by: DrJosephKim
EHR, Meaningful use

I speak with physicians about “meaningful use” all the time. So many are very confused about the rules, the incentives, the penalties, and even the definitions. Most physicians are not trained to think about these types of things. Also, many physicians don’t have enough background in EHRs so they’re struggling to understand how much work is going to be required to get them to meaningful use.

Let’s start with the simple word “attestation.” What does this word really mean? The dictionary may define this word as, “to affirm to be correct, true, or genuine.” Or, ” to certify by signature or oath.”

Attestation for the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program opened April 18th, 2011. Do physicians understand the attestation process? This seems to be a significant area of confusion among many physicians.

Physicians need to attest that they are using EHRs and achieving “meaningful use.” Is it that simple, or do they need to provide a lot of documentation to essentially prove that they are meeting meaningful use criteria?

CMS indicates: “A complete EHR system will provide a report of the numerators, denominators and other information. Then you will need to enter that data into our online Attestation System.” This is where many physicians are getting confused. They may be using a certified EHR system, but they don’t know how their system provides this report.

Physicians are trained to document things in great detail so that they can effectively defend themselves if they find themselves in a lawsuit. They’re comfortable with that process and they’ve mastered the art of documenting each clinical encounter, each procedure, each visit, etc. Now, they feel they need to add a level of documentation that shows that they’re using EHRs in a meaningful way.

I hope that 2012 brings more clarity around “meaningful use” and encourages more physicians to go after the financial incentives that the government has set aside for clinicians who treat Medicare or Medicaid patients. I also hope that these incentives are enough to motivate physicians to use EHRs routinely on all patients, not just those who are tied to these financial incentives.

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