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Meaningful Use: Why should ineligible providers still care?

What is Meaningful Use and who is eligible?
Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), “eligible” providers who are successful in demonstrating “meaningful use” of a certified EHR system qualify for incentive payments. CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) have defined Meaningful Use criteria that is to be phased in three stages over the next several years. Stage 1 (2011) focuses on:
• Electronically capturing health information in a coded format
• Using that information to track key clinical conditions
• Communicating that information for care coordination purposes
• Initiating the reporting of clinical quality measures and public health information
Currently, all post-acute inpatient providers, including LTACHs, are not eligible for incentive payments.
Why should ineligible providers still care?
Although LTACHs are not currently eligible to receive EHR incentive dollars, Stage 2 Meaningful Use endorses ideas to improve care transitions through interoperable information systems. Improving post-acute providers’ capacity to participate in HIEs or receive clinical summaries directly from referring providers will contribute to improved care coordination and care transitions, lowering the cost of care delivery, and generating improved outcomes; two of the cornerstones of national health care reform.
By investing in information technology and automating a paper-based process, LTACHs will be able to leverage this data from multiple disciplines to support clinical decision making and position LTACH facilities for a future of reformed health delivery environment.
Where the LTACH industry stands today.
While acute care and eligible providers have Meaningful Use to worry about, LTACHs are also facing a reduction in Medicare payments if they don’t meet the standards of the new Quality Reporting program. Beginning in fiscal year 2014 (October 2013), LTACHs that are not recording and submitting quality measure data will receive a 2% reduction in Medicare payments.
Improving post-acute providers’ capacity to participate in HIE will contribute to the success of national health care reform. Although national EHR technology adoption rates have increased steadily since the passing of the HITECH Act, multiple studies indicate that LTACHs and other ineligible providers are far behind in the adoption of EHR and clinical automation systems. Prior to HITECH and Meaningful Use incentives, eligible providers were adopting EHR systems at similar rates. Some leaders in the industry feel as though the government should provide low-interest loan programs to serve as the impetus, while others believe certification standards should expand to include all settings across the care spectrum.
Where the LTACH industry is headed.
With a fully, integrated clinical and financial information system in place, LTACH facilities will improve quality of care today and be prepared for what lies ahead, including:
• Required automation of the LTACH Care Tool
• New payment models (ACOs, ACC, MCC, pay-per-performance) requiring more partnerships
• Nationwide Health Information infrastructure
Health IT Partner
So, what do you need to look for in a health information technology partner?
Experience
Look for a vendor that is dedicated to the post-acute healthcare industry and understands the unique care environment in which you operate. This means looking for a vendor that has a solid client base within your lines of business and fully understands, supports, and has the flexibility to be proactive as regulatory requirements or reimbursement models change.
Functionality
Applications need to be intuitive, easy to use, and include all of the required elements to support your organization. With integrated clinical and financial applications, all departments and disciplines share real-time, vital information regarding clinical conditions and reimbursement.
Data Exchange
The ability to share information on patients eliminates redundant clinical activity and plays a vital role in your organization’s success. Industry standard HL7 interfaces, coupled with the availability of exchanging the Continuity of Care Document (CCD), can make this a reality.
Support
Support should include an experienced, highly trained, account manager that is available 24/7 and is dedicated to your organization. Ideally, this account manager would become an extension of your staff to address the need for on-going software modifications as well as state and federal mandated regulatory requirements.

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