While Meaningful Use has been a hot topic over the past year, it will become even more important as we approach 2011 when actual incentive payments for qualified physicians and organizations can be received.
There still exists a lot of uncertainty about exactly what MU is and what it is not. I spoke with Robert Tumanic of C3 Partners (http://c3partners.biz) about MU and their unique product, Meaningful Use Monitor (MUM ©) designed to help organizations and individuals actually meet the requirements. What follows is a loose transcript of our discussion. If you are a physician in a private practice or an administrator on the hook for ensuring your organization meets the MU requirements, C3 is a valuable group to be familiar with.
First, tell me about C3 Partners
We are a team of four individuals, all senior consultants with experience as partners from large firms. We are deeply entrenched in health care and Meaningful Use specifically; dating back to February 2009 we have been monitoring every aspect of the rules. We literally have over 8 man-years invested in the tool and we update it and our clients as the rules evolve. Remember, compliance isn’t a one time event….its ongoing annually and we make sure you don’t have to think about it because that’s what we do.
Additionally, we have aligned ourselves with nearly one hundred business partners who add MU and EHR consulting capability to our product. The partners, augmented by clinical professionals, have reviewed the final CMS rule and have provided their interpretations that are at the core of our MU tool.
Tell me about the Meaningful Use Monitor
The MUM tool was built to help with the process of getting reimbursements and avoiding eventual penalties associated with MU compliance. The HITECH Act, like HIPAA before it, is very complex, full of potholes, and somewhat open to interpretation. There are two components physicians and hospitals must address in order to qualify for the much talked about reimbursements:
Component 1 is that you must be using a “certified” EHR system. Component 2, and this is the one that is much more complex, is that you must use the EHR in a defined manner as per the rules posted by CMS; and this is the primary benefit we have built into the Meaningful Use Monitor. It enables the user to walk through all the aspects of the requirements and ensure they meet the specifications by modifying their clinical processes. In areas where there is a gap, it provides ways to get into compliance.
Can you give me an example of an area in which organizations might not be aware they have to be compliant under Component 2?
There is a requirement that a physician/hospital must offer a smoking cessation program to patient smokers and it needs to be entered into the EMR. What does this have to do with use of an EHR? It doesn’t matter…it’s a requirement to meet the MU requirements and thus, clinical processes must be altered so reflect the program was offered and this fact captured within the EHR.
Most of the buzz has been around the reimbursement physicians and organizations receive under MU… can you elaborate?
Individual physicians are eligible for $44K in reimbursements (in addition to Medicare or Medicaid bonuses) and hospitals may receive as much as $10M over the life of the program. Moreover, there are increased reimbursements for Medicare or Medicaid built in as well. These increased reimbursements will be applicable for the next 5 years. On the other hand, there will be penalties in the form of decreased reimbursements for those who do not meet the requirements.
When can physicians and groups begin to receive the reimbursements?
May 2011 is the first opportunity for reimbursement. For the first year, CMS requires that MU be demonstrated for only 90 days to meet the criterion for payment.
Who should be paying attention and resultantly, who might want to take advantage of the Meaningful Use Monitor?
The tool is designed for 4 audiences:
§ Health Systems/Hospitals
§ Large Groups
§ Small Groups/Solo practitioners
§ Public Sector – (Medicaid, RECs)
How can a user be certain their EHR is certified?
CCHIT lists EHRs that are certified (http://www.cchit.org/products)
Where do folks find the Meaningful Use Monitor?