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Health IT Study: Meaningful Use Separates ‘Haves’ from ‘Have-Nots’

IntelPC-757832While the healthcare reform comes with many changes, one of its key advancements that will innovate the way healthcare operates is the implementation of electronic health records.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, is ready to hand out $36 billion in incentive payments to providers who implement EHR systems – as long as they comply with a new set of regulatory metrics called meaningful use.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute found some health systems are finding it difficult to achieve meaningful use requirements, but the benefits of achieving it heavily outweigh the challenges.

According to the study, which surveyed 120 CIOs and health IT executives, the requirements of meaningful use of EHRs are vital in ensuring the new IT systems are effective and systematic. It states that leveraging meaningful use could potentially “create strategic opportunities, align with physicians and health insurers, and engage and empower patients.”

While all providers do not need to fall under the meaningful-use requirements, the ones that do receive government funding. The analyses demonstrated, “A typical 500-bed hospital demonstrating MU by 2011 could receive more than $6 million in Medicare incentive payments, and individual physicians could receive up to $44,000.”

However, the survey showed a common set of barriers that are keeping CIOs from achieving meaningful-use requirements. The four obstacles health systems face on the road to meaningful use are the lack of clarity on meaningful use standards, the shortage of skilled staff, vendor readiness, and questionable existing infrastructure capabilities.

“Even though the incentives represent the government’s largest investment in health IT, only half of hospital CIOs surveyed by PwC said they would be ready to apply for those incentives in 2011, the first year they become available,” the researchers reported. “One reason is that many hospitals are too far behind the curve.”

The researchers presented five “mile markers” to guide health systems in marking their progress on the road to meaningful use. These mile markers include: the establishment of governance of meaningful use achievement, the balancing of competing priorities of time lines, making new public-private partnerships, making the patient the purpose and collaboration between physicians and health insurers.

Their findings revealed that without these alignments, organizations may not be able to keep up with IT changes. They will ultimately be absorbed by “those who can.” Through this transformational effort, the way the health system delivers care will be drastically changed.

“MU will separate the haves and have-nots. Those organizations that survive will achieve alignment in strategy, quality, the physician community, and finances,” said Daniel Morreale, vice president of regional health information organization development at AtlantiCare. “The others will fall by the wayside due to poor quality, inability to engage physicians, and inadequate finances.”

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