Hospitals and healthcare providers are under significant, ever-changing regulatory and reporting pressures—among them, Meaningful Use (MU) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). MU is intended to improve patient care, but the time and effort required to run the program can offset the efficiencies you experience, as well as taking valuable resources away from your healthcare practice. If you’ve reaped most of the financial rewards and are not seeing clinical benefits, you may find yourself wondering whether you want to continue to invest in the program. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that there was a nearly 20 percent dropout rate in 2013. What’s behind this?
Point B’s Perspective
It’s tempting to consider this a simple matter of dollars and cents, but the returns you get from MU are more nuanced than what the bottom line can show.
MU’s financial incentives are front-loaded during AIU and stage 1 to help hospitals and healthcare providers pay for developing the program, buying software and hardware, and staffing up. But in stage 2, those incentives start to wane just as more stringent requirements for clinical processes start to take effect. De-investing may seem attractive—after all, you can continue to use MU software and processes without having to staff the program or drive behavioral change. Staff time that was allocated to MU can be put to other uses, freeing up resources for initiatives that may deliver significant benefits.
But by de-investing, you risk financial penalties, missing out on clinical benefits, and losing intangible benefits like strengthening your brand and recruiting top talent. Before making a decision, we recommend that you consider all of these factors.
Return on Investment (ROI)
The implications of de-investing are as varied as the hospitals and healthcare providers who take part in MU. Some organizations may face financial disincentives when they stop participating; others may find themselves left behind the curve in electronic health record technology. Whether continued investment works for you depends on factors such as these:
• Do Medicare or Medicaid rules apply? If you’re a Medicare provider, you will have to pay a penalty for not participating in MU. (Medicaid providers, including pediatricians and pediatric institutions, do not face penalties.)
• Are you an eligible hospital or eligible provider? If you’re an eligible provider, are you a general practitioner or a specialist? If you’re a specialist who doesn’t see patients directly, many of the MU measures don’t apply to you.
At its heart, MU is about improving healthcare through better use of technology. Whatever the difficulties compliance has presented, MU has resulted in positive clinical outcomes for patients, including:
• Decreased rate of smoking through better education
• Decreased drug-drug and drug-allergy reactions
• Increased patient engagement in their own healthcare
• Improved medication reconciliation for transitions of care
• Reduced hospital admissions due to improved registry information
MU can help patients become more engaged in their own healthcare, in addition to making it easier for hospitals and providers to share information—two important factors to acknowledge.
Continuing with MU can give your organization credibility above and beyond mere compliance. Some hospitals choose to stay ahead of the technological curve simply as part of their culture. Investing this way yields results in being able to attract top provider talent as well as patients. Not participating in MU—or not passing—can weaken a hospital’s brand. The benefits of a strong brand aren’t easily quantified, but are also impossible to ignore.
The Big Picture
In all likelihood, your MU program is part of a complex tapestry of compliance programs—and as such, you may be able to kill two birds with one stone. Can your MU program help you achieve compliance for non-MU programs, or further your progress toward other business goals? Consider the following questions:
• What’s your long-term electronic health record strategy, including ICD-10 readiness? How does MU help you get there?
• Does your current software version support both ICD-10 and MU requirements?
• Are there synergies with other regulatory reporting requirements, such as Physician Quality Reporting System and Patient Centered Medical Home?
Looking at your compliance landscape as a whole can help you determine whether it’s worth it to continue to invest in MU—particularly if your MU program can be used as a force multiplier.
The Bottom Line
MU fits into a much larger mosaic of regulatory and compliance concerns in the healthcare industry. The question of whether or not to continue participation in MU is not black and white. Hospitals and providers must consider many factors, including ROI, the clinical value, the marketability of the organization, and the long-term IT strategy and planned software upgrades before making a decision.
Here at Point B, we’ve helped many hospitals and healthcare providers navigate the tricky waters of MU participation. What is your position on MU stage 2? Please get in touch with Point B if you’d like to discuss your situation.