As soon as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the final rules for stage one of meaningful use, Simeon Schwartz, president of the 180-physician WestMed Medical Group in Purchase, NY, started thinking about how to spend about $7 million in stimulus money coming his way.
The organization started working to achieve meaningful use well before the final regulations were announced.
WestMed implemented GE Healthcare's Centricity Practice Management and EMR in 2002. But even organizations that didn't have a big head start can and have positioned themselves to reap the rewards that start coming in 2011.
Greenbrae, CA?based Marin General Hospital, with the help of Affiliated Computer Service, implemented the McKesson Paragon IT and EMR system in June. To get ready, Marin leaders conducted a full assessment of the system based on the best information they had before the rules were published. And they're revising that assessment based on what they know now, says David Cox, CFO of the 150-staffed-bed hospital. That process will continue through future phases of meaningful-use rules.
Stop waiting for physicians
Physicians who object to EMRs and other clinical IT continue to be one of the biggest obstacles for many organizations. But there's a simple way to deal with resistant physicians, Schwartz says: Wish them well in their future endeavors. "Quite honestly, you just can't afford to work with them," he says. "This is the basic functionality necessary for a modern physician to function."
Many physicians do appreciate that.
"We are particularly blessed in this community because the physicians we are working with are very tech-savvy and open and actively seeking a hospital partnership in the area of technology," Cox says. "We intend to get much more efficient and work with our medical staff to provide care in the most effective way possible."
Stop waiting for a perfect world
There are plenty of complaints and unanswered questions about meaningful use—from privacy and data security concerns to the financial burden of paying for systems before those reimbursement checks come in to fears that the money will dry up before everyone gets a fair share. But if you're waiting around to see what will happen, you're missing the point—and a big opportunity.
Organizations must push forward despite uncertainty, taking actions such as hiring IT staff and investing in hardware and software now, says Mitch Morris, MD, national leader of HIT for Deloitte Consulting.
"As healthcare IT leaders move forward with their plans, they will want to develop a clear road map," Morris says. "A meaningful-use road map should include not only goals and expected outcomes, but also timelines, staffing requirements, and a projection of expected capital and operating costs."
Whether they recognize it or not, organizations still have a chance to catch up—and cash in. "I have never seen the industry so well prepared for an initiative," Cox says.