How the Meaningful Use Stage 2 Timeline Affects Your Medical Practice

The following is a guest blog post by Dana Deardorff.
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The year of 2014 will be a year of great transition for most medical practices. You may be in the beginning stages of using EHR/EMR software, or you may be installing Medical Practice (MP) software for the first time. Perhaps you have been using a software program, but you’ve realized you need to upgrade to software that is certified for Meaningful Use. Or, if you’ve purchased certified software, you may need help proving the “meaningful use” of that software, meeting the requirements of Stage 2.

What does Stage 2 Meaningful Use mean for your medical practice? In addition to more recording and reporting measures, Stage 2 of Meaningful Use emphasizes care coordination and HIPAA-compliant engagement with patients.

Meaningful Use Stage Requirements

Stage 1

Beginning in 2011, the focus was on data capturing and sharing. Eligible providers and hospitals were required to show meaningful use of software by meeting a set number of objectives. These objectives were broken down into core objectives and menu set objectives. To be eligible for incentive payments, eligible providers and hospitals needed to prove they met the requirements for a 90-day period in the first year of participation and the entire second year of participation.

In a nutshell, during Stage 1, you are expected to:

  • Capture health information in a standardized electronic format
  • Use EHR/EMR or MP software to track clinical conditions
  • Report clinical quality measures and public health information
  • Begin engaging electronically with patients via HIPAA-compliant software

Your EHR/EMR or MP software vendor should be able to explain the practical applications of these requirements to you, training your staff how to prove and report compliance.

Stage 2

Once you’ve met the requirements for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, you will need to widen your focus to include clinical processes.

In shorthand, during Stage 2, you will be expected to:

  • Engage in more rigorous health information exchange
  • Engage in e-prescribing
  • Deliver lab results electronically
  • Offer increased patient-controlled data and engagement with patient through electronic means
  • Transmit patient care summaries securely and compliantly through approved electronic methods

On a practical level, this means your office will need to use software that provides the following features, amongst others:

  • Patient engagement portal, including mobile device access to messages and records
  • Electronic recording of and communication of immunization records
  • E-prescribing capabilities and communication

You can begin meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements now (2014), assuming you have already met Meaningful Use Stage 1 requirements for the minimum time frame. (Ninety consecutive days one year, and an entire year the following year. Be sure to learn more about the possible Meaningful Use Stage 2 delay.) You will need to do the same with Meaningful Use Stage 2 before you can proceed to Stage 3.

Stage 3

Beginning in 2016, eligible providers and hospitals can take on a third set of requirements, focused on improving quality of care, safety and efficiency. The end goal is to provide improved health outcomes.

Meaningful Use Timeline

Eligible hospitals are held to a fiscal-year timeline, but eligible providers are held to the calendar year. This means you will need to ask your EHR/EMR or MP software vendor to help you figure out what your practice’s deadline is and how to meet it for each stage. A good vendor should be able to help you overcome obstacles like:

  • Employee resistance to using new software or processes
  • Software implementation and integration challenges
  • Office procedure modifications and work flow changes

Participation in Stage 1 opened in 2011. Practices that were early participants are now moving into Stage 2 here in 2014. Those who participate soon will be eligible for Stage 3 participation as soon as 2016, taking advantage of years of incentive payments.

Medical Practice Participation

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than 355,000 health care providers have received incentive payments for their participation in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs (as of February 2014).  Over $13.6 billion has been paid out through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program thus far, and over $7.5 billion has been paid out through the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

Incentive payments aren’t the only reason to upgrade your MP software. Medicaid and Medicare eligible providers and hospitals that do not meet Meaningful Use requirements will be subjected to penalties starting in 2015. These penalties will come in the form of payment reductions, starting at one percent, capped at five percent for each year eligible providers don’t demonstrate meaningful use.

If you haven’t tackled this challenge yet, you’ll want to take it on now, before you miss out on the incentive payments and lose out on a percentage of your Medicaid and Medicare payments.With the right guidance, you’ll find that the upgrade and training will result in an improved experience for everyone, staff and patients alike.

About Dana Deardorff of MediPro

MediPro, Inc. is a full-service medical billing software company offering practice management (PM) software, electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) from IMS and McKesson. As of April 2014, IMS is certified for Meaningful Use Stage 2, and McKesson, which is certified for Stage 1, will soon also be certified for Stage 2. (McKesson is certified for Stage 2 now, they just haven’t made the formal announcement).