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When healthcare organizations use related technology in maintaining electronic health records (EHR) alongside information technology, it is referred to as the Meaningful Use. Payments can also be received from the federal government when Meaningful Use status is attained. Such payments are received under two main mechanisms that have been put in place namely the Medicaid EHR Incentive and the Medicare HER programs.
The HITECH Act that was adopted in 2009 has several remarkable provisions that outline the benchmark operations of the Meaningful Use. For example, incentive payments will be advanced to organizations on condition that they have attained meaningful use within a specified time. The year 2014 is the set deadline for healthcare organizations that will qualify for the Medicare HER incentive program. On the other hand, a penalty may be charged against healthcare organizations that will not have attained the set standards by 2015.
The first stage of meaningful use of the Electronic Health Records should be achieved by hospitals and individual physicians so that maximum reimbursement can be received. This provision was supposed to take place during the 2011- 2012 financial year and also within a period of 90 days. It was then expected to resume the rest of the year after the expiry of 90 days.
Incentive payments can be received by individuals who qualify for Medicaid program only if meaningful use is realized before the close of 2016. In addition, it is imperative to mention that the incentive program under the confines of the meaningful use established regulations for the first stage through the cooperation of two major bodies. These were the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS).
The second and third stages of the meaningful use will also be established by the working group. The stage 2 criteria have already been suggested and will be put into consideration in 2014. However, the criteria for stage 3 will be dealt with at a later date.
In terms of summary of the requirements of MU, there are three key requirements of the meaningful use that have already been adopted in stage one. To begin with, healthcare organizations and physicians are supposed to make use of the Electronic Health Records certified technology in an appropriate manner.
In other words, they should utilize the latter meaningfully. E-prescribing should also be included in this usage. Second, users ought to prove that they have the ability to make use of electronic health information in a collaborative manner through exchange programs so as to boost the quality of healthcare provision. Finally, they are expected to remit data on clinical quality measures.
Effects of meeting/not meeting the requirements
The effects of meeting or not meeting the MU requirements on healthcare organizations have also been documented in the provisions of the new law. Penalties are advanced towards healthcare organizations that fail to meet the meaningful use requirements. Since MU is an ongoing annual event, users are supposed to comply with all the provisions of the Act.
For instance, if meaningful use requirements are not met by healthcare organizations, medical reimbursements will be reduced accordingly within a given period. In spite of the fact that annual penalties will be implemented from 2015, the penalties will largely depend on the performance of the healthcare organization during the previous two calendar years.
However, the 2015 annual penalty can be avoided by a healthcare organization if the 2013 payment year is successfully addressed. In addition, healthcare organizations can avoid the 2016 penalties if they attain meaningful use in 2014.
Issues facing healthcare organizations and solutions
There are quite a number of issues facing healthcare organizations that demand immediate redress. First, poor quality healthcare delivery is a major challenge facing such organizations. It is imperative to note that healthcare industry is a highly dynamic field that requires constant checks and balances.
In order to deliver better value to healthcare recipients, value-based payment structures and the best innovative practices will have to be adopted by healthcare organizations in order to boost performance. In addition, premiums and administrative costs should be reduced significantly by insurers so that patients can afford to access high quality care.
Second, it is highly likely that usage will be hampered by the accompanying payments and increased deductions. In other terms, the rising cost of healthcare provision is grossly affecting the performance of healthcare organizations because consumers are deferring care. As a result, there is a resultant decline in income for healthcare organizations.
This reduction in revenue will have to be countered by the healthcare organizations. Besides, the effects of care deferral should be keenly monitored by both employers and insurers in order to assess the net loss especially in regards to the overall productivity and health of employees.
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There is a sharp rise in demand for some medicinal products coupled with discontinued drugs and slow production process of vital medicines. These have negatively impacted the performance of healthcare organizations. Worse still, generic drugs have raised several issues regarding quality. As a consequence, drug shortage is a regular challenge to consumers.
Therefore, healthcare organizations can redeem their performance if FDA is given a heightened focus. Pharmaceutical companies and hospital units should also be keen on controlling quality, real-time inventory exercises and supply chain management.
Ramp up in the health informatics investments is also a growing issue of concern for healthcare organizations. As it stands now, huge investments have been made on health informatics by these organizations. This implies that additional expenditure on health informatics is an added financial burden for healthcare organizations.
There is a growing need for healthcare organizations to share vital data with like-minded organizations. In order to effectively manage the well-being of vulnerable populations, expedite the time taken by a product to reach the desired market, identify population health trends, coordinate patient care and improve the overall health outcomes, surplus investment in healthcare informatics will be the only viable option for healthcare organizations.
Privacy and security concerns in the operations of healthcare organizations are yet another challenge. Most healthcare consumers are hardly willing to share their personal information unless it will expedite the process of healthcare delivery. Some consumers argue that their choice of hospitals is largely determined by privacy and security issues. As a remedy to this challenge, healthcare organizations should guarantee consumers that their personal data will not be shared with other parties without their authorization.
Why some organizations do not meet the requirements
There are some organizations that are choosing not to meet the requirements and just bear the resultant penalties. As much as the various functionalities of the Meaningful Use are beneficial, some healthcare organizations have opted not to meet its requirements. They have identified potential demerits associated with the Act.
These include reduced privacy and security of health records, declined productivity, changes in the workflow, financial concerns, and other several unanticipated consequences. For instance, there are costs to be incurred in the adoption and implementation process of this technology. In addition, maintaining the technology demands additional expenditure. While executing the latter, loss of productivity leads to reduced earnings.
This eventually acts as a disincentive for healthcare institutions and employees. Training end-users, adoption of electronic charts, hardware and software installation as well as purchasing equipment are some of the direct costs incurred when adopting the electronic health records system.
In-patient and out-patient settings require these inputs in order to fully implement information technology in healthcare organizations. The associated cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining electronic health records system is a real scare for some healthcare organizations. As a matter of fact, the proposed penalties are far less than the cost of adopting the technology.
Health information technology and the Meaningful Use provisions have also been known to cause serious disruption of work in systems that have been fully established. Providers and medical staff can hardly concentrate on their work platforms due to the associated interruption occasioned by electronic health records.
This leads to short term drop in productivity. The main cause of this drop is the end user learning process because some personnel have to be trained before using the electronic health records systems. There are providers who perceive this limitation as a gross production setback because it takes both time and financial resources before an organization can resume its original position.
The penalties proposed by the new piece of legislation are minimal compared to the potential losses that a healthcare organization can undergo after implementing the requirements of the Act. Over-reliance in technology, power structure changes, negative emotions and increased medical errors are some of the unexpected negative impacts that may be caused by the adoption of electronic health records.