Study shows importance of adhering to MU requirements

Study shows importance of adhering to MU requirements

The financial incentives provided by the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs have been thought to contribute to the significant increase in electronic health record adoption rates over the past couple of years. While enhanced workflows and reduced medical errors have also been responsible for the increasing number of providers implementing EHRs, the incentives delegated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have undoubtedly made the systems more enticing to physicians. 

However, a recent study conducted by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York showed that for EHR systems to fully improve patient care and outcomes, doctors and their staff must be committed to meeting the meaningful use standards.

MU adherence impacts care quality
The results, published in the June edition of Health Affairs, showed that the physicians who are serious about using their EHR systems to adhere to the meaningful use requirements have shown improvements in patient care. Meanwhile, those who failed to invest enough time and effort into meeting the standards did not see enhancements. 

More than 26,000 providers throughout New York were included in the study. The payment data from the CMS and the state Department of Health stemming from the time period between 2011 and 2012 was also examined and factored into the results. 

Between 2011 and 2012, the study found that in New York, the participation in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program rose by 2.4 percent. The participation in the Medicare Incentive Program, on the other hand, showed a larger increase, rising by 15.8 percent. The percentages included both providers who are taking part in the program and implementing certified EHR technology. The researchers noted that participation in the programs is causing some providers to achieve higher quality care, while others who dropped out or stopped trying to adhere to the MU standards are showing lower quality of service.

"The expectation is that physicians and hospitals should be electronic," senior author Joshua Vest, an assistant professor of health care policy and research at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a public statement. "How would everybody feel if only half of the banks were electronic nowadays? Without additional support to move forward there is the potential to stall out among those who don't have the resources or capability to adopt EHRs."

Participation gaps may cause long-term problems
One of the issues that has resulted from the differing participation rates in the EHR Incentive Programs is a digital divide between different health care providers. The study suggests that these effects may end up playing a role in the future of health care policy. 

Many providers dropped out of the Medicaid program over the years. In fact, the study explained that more than half of the physicians who participated in the Medicaid incentive program in 2011 did not participate in 2012. This may push federal agencies to modify the current objectives within the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program to keep providers interested in participating. 

"Electronic health records are vital not only because of their ability to efficiently provide physicians with a comprehensive portrait of and decision support for their patients, but also to drive new healthcare delivery models that can improve the value and quality of clinical care," Rainu Kaushal, the chair of the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research and Frances and John L. Loeb Professor of medical informatics at Weill Cornell, said in a public statement.

Practices that are experiencing difficulty adhering to the meaningful use standards after implementing a certified EHR system can look to resources provided by the CMS for support. Many high-quality vendors also offer MU resource centers so providers can receive guidance on how to adhere to these standards with their specific systems.