What stage 2 meaningful use should really be about

Many providers have experienced a significant amount of difficulty trying to adhere to stage 2 meaningful use requirements since they were implemented. Although electronic health record systems and other health IT devices have proven to be effective for many practices that have adopted them, most providers are not as focused as they should be on the improved patient outcomes that the principles can provide.

At a recent convention in San Diego, California, the American Health Information Management Association emphasized that, although practices should be focused on meeting the criteria and avoiding penalties, they should also be concerned with ensuring that the goals the principles are meant to achieve are reached.

The current stage 2 goals include a more rigorous health care exchange, increased rules for incorporating lab results and e-prescribing, an increase in data controlled by patients themselves and the transmission of summaries regarding patient care electronically across multiple settings, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More practices should be motivated to reap the advantages provided by this stage 2 criteria, not just adhere to it to avoid penalties. The principles can ultimately improve patient care and outcomes, making the adoption of EHRs as advantageous as it can be.

Practices need to step up
At the 2014 AHIMA Convention, Christine Stiegerwald, senior director of health information management and systems at Banner Health said that stage 2 requirements can enhance patient care by placing actionable health care data in the hands of providers who want to improve their service, according to EHR Intelligence. Stiegerwald also discussed the large company's extensive effort and the long time it took for them to prepare for the stage 2 principles. 

"It took a whole team of people at Banner," Stiegerwald said, according to EHR Intelligence. "It wasn't just the clinical folks or just the IT folks. Everybody was involved. We had to involve everyone from medical imaging and data imaging to the HIMS folks to the PFS folks. Our patient administration folks were getting people to sign up for patient portal access as well, so it's a team effort. It takes more than one department to do it."

However, while the team prepared for stage 2, they were also aware that their efforts were centered around meeting the criteria due to their desire to avoid penalties simply because it is required. She used the example of the summary of care and the new requirement that makes the organization use an application in order to transmit the data out. On the other hand, transmitting the information back into the system is not required until stage 3, even though they have the capability to do so now. Stiegerwald found herself asking why they would wait two more years to do something like this when they could start now and improve their patient care. 

Stiegerwald pointed out that most health care organizations do not want to spend money on something they do not have to invest in yet. She hopes, however, that providers will begin to focus more on getting information to the right people – patients and other necessary locations – at the right time. She believes that the world of health IT would really thrive if practices made a point to use their EHR systems to raise their level of patient care, going above and beyond simply meeting the meaningful use criteria and receiving incentives.   

According to EHR Intelligence, the AHIMA has created a list of information governance principles to guide organizations as they move from stage 1 to stage 2 criteria. These were established to help health care organizations push themselves to use health IT to benefit their patients. 

AHIMA governance principles
In a recent press release, the AHIMA stressed that the new set of principles will assist organizations as they use the meaningful use criteria to deliver better service and care to their patients. The eight key points are as follows:

1. Accountability: An accountable member of senior leadership shall oversee the information governance program and give appropriate individuals responsibility for information management.

2. Transparency: An organization's processes and activities regarding IG must be openly and verifiably documented.

3. Integrity: An IG program shall be developed so that guaranteed authentic and reliable information is generated by, managed for and provided to the organization.

4. Protection: An IG program must ensure that private information is protected from breach, corruption and loss. Private information includes information that is confidential, secret, classified, essential to business continuity or otherwise requires protection.

5. Compliance: An IG program should adhere to applicable laws, organization policies, regulations and standards.

6. Availability: Information must be maintained in a timely manner that ensures efficient and accurate retrieval.

7. Retention: Information must be maintained for an appropriate time, focusing on its legal, historical, regulatory, operational, fiscal and risk requirements.

8. Disposition: Disposition for information that is no longer required to be maintained by applicable laws and the organization's policies must be provided securely and appropriately.