First wave of hospitals achieve stage two of meaningful use

Attesting to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' requirements for meaningful use is a process that begins years in advance. Health care organizations that are preparing to submit their workflows for evaluation have purchased electronic health record systems software, trained staff on proper usage and incorporated the technology in sophisticated and comprehensive ways that aid patient outcomes.

While the preparation can place great strain on organizations, some rise to the occasion just as well. According to InformationWeek, the first hospitals have begun to successfully attest to stage 2 of meaningful use. While the overall numbers remain low, the hospitals that have already cleared the second hurdle of the meaningful use program may have focused on four key areas to find success.

Setting the bar
Meaningful use stage 1 was successfully achieved by the vast majority of participating organizations, and it appears that the hospitals in the wave of those attesting to stage 2 are coming out of the woodwork as well.

Tom Johnson, chief information officer of Penn Highlands Healthcare, spoke to InformationWeek about the dramatic success of one of the hospitals within the Penn Highlands Healthcare network. Penn Highlands DuBois, the system's flagship facility, recently became the first hospital to successfully attest to meaningful use stage 2.

"We really wanted to position ourselves as a leader in [meaningful use] compliance," Johnson told the news source. "We weren't the first to attest for stage 1, but we certainly were in the first group."

Johnson explained that the key to Penn Highlands DuBois' success rested in the attitude its staff members took in preparing for stage 2. Rather than plan to satisfy the minimum requirements set by the CMS, the hospital attempted to achieve the highest marks possible in all areas. For example, though the CMS mandates that computerized physician order entry must reach the 30 percent mark, Penn Highlands DuBois achieved 90 percent.

"We wanted to go all-in and get everybody on board, even for the optional measures," Johnson told InformationWeek.

Johnson also explained that surpassing the CMS' minimum requirements also positions the hospital to perform equally well in stage 3. By completing all optional requirements – which may not be optional for stage 3 – Penn Highlands DuBois has eliminated some of the work necessary for the next step of meaningful use.

Focus on four categories
While Penn Highlands DuBois may have benefited from a dedicated executive board that constantly strove for elite performance when it came to meaningful use, other organizations that may not be as far along in their preparations may consider focusing their efforts on several key areas, Fierce EMR explained.

By speaking with industry experts and veterans at Kaiser Permanente and the Cleveland Clinic, Fierce EMR identified four parameters that struggling health care organizations should focus on to enhance their meaningful use stage 2 readiness:

  • Effective patient portals
  • Accurate data observation
  • Patient engagement strategies through mobile health solutions
  • Teamwork through constant communication

Patient portals will help organizations share their previously inert data more effectively, while data metrics allow them to monitor how these efforts are faring. This will prove especially important so companies can see areas where they must improve based on stage 2 requirements. Mobile health technology can help not only physicians check EHR systems on the go, but patients may benefit from the increased accessibility as well. Lastly, because meaningful use affects all hospital departments in different ways, effective communication is the only way to ensure that everybody within an organization is on the same page.