By: Marc Ladin
In response to a growing chorus of industry groups, North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers recently introduced a bill that would delay federal rulemaking for Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program until 2017 or when certain conditions are met. In recent months, the healthcare industry has been asking many questions about the new proposed objectives and realizing that Meaningful Use itself is not only becoming more complex and difficult, but it will soon be now upon them to comply.
Meaningful Use is part of a larger vision of healthcare, in which healthcare providers are motivated to convert from paper patient records to using certified electronic health record (EHR) technology. The motivation comes from the U.S. government in the form of partial Medicare & Medicaid reimbursement, once providers prove they have met a certain set of criteria – called Meaningful Use.
The goals of Meaningful Use are to improve patient care by using certified electronic health record (EHR) technology to increase care quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities. Ultimately, it is hoped that Meaningful Use compliance will result in better clinical outcomes, improved population health outcomes, as well as increased transparency and efficiency. The Meaningful Use requirements for EHR also fall under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which established rules for access, authentications, storage and auditing, and transmittal of a patient’s electronic medical records.
In part, meeting Meaningful Use goals requires converting paper patient records to electronic records by using an EHR system, but it also requires that the transmission and access of those records meet HIPAA requirements for data security, and it is those requirements that are one of the biggest challenges that healthcare providers face today.
The Meaningful Use rules are broken down into 3 stages which are implemented over time as not to overwhelm healthcare providers:
Stage 1 – Set in 2011
Data capture and sharing
Stage 2 – Set in 2014
Advance clinical processes
Stage 3 – Proposed for 2016
Currently, healthcare providers are involved in meeting Stage 2 Meaningful Use goals, and one of the biggest challenges for this stage is providing a secure patient data system that can quickly and easily distribute data throughout the entire clinical process.
This distribution of data is covered by many rules within Meaningful Use, Stage 2. Rule 17, in particular, states a healthcare provider must meet the following threshold: “Secure messages were sent using the electronic messaging function of a certified EHR system by more than five percent of unique patients.”
With several Stage 2 rules around the distribution of sensitive data, the question many healthcare providers may ask is “What’s the most efficient way to tackle Meaningful Use without disrupting our daily workflows?”
Of course there are tools and platforms that can be used to assist in complying with Stage 2 rules, but the bigger concern is making sure physicians and providers do in fact use these tools on a regular basis.
Most healthcare organizations already have an EHR system in place. That’s step one. The next step is finding solutions that can seamlessly integrate with an organization’s existing EHR. This makes implementation much smoother, intuitive and most importantly, painless. Why adopt another stand alone solution that staff needs to login to every morning? Something that is already plugged into a nurse or physician’s everyday patient management portal is not only much more accessible but also more likely to be used, ensuring full compliance. Some secure messaging platforms – TigerText included – can easily be integrated within most EHR systems.
Additionally, a secure messaging platform like TigerText can assist with Stage 2 Meaningful Use as it secures the transmission of sensitive data and images. Secure messaging can be set-up to accomplish the following:
1.) Allow for a one-way text communication from doctor to patient informing the patient of test results, analysis, diagnosis, etc.
2.) Certain apps like TigerText can be set up to only allow one-way doctor-to-patient communication, in which a patient cannot reply to the message and cannot reply to the doctor through the messaging app.
3.) Typically, X-rays, CT scans, lab or test results are typically stored in a healthcare provider’s certified EHR system. The IT department of the healthcare provider can automatically set up their EHR system to push patient test results in the form of a secure text message to the attending physician. This not only ensures timely test result delivery, but also ensures the test results stay safe and private.
4.) With secure texting, a healthcare provider’s IT administrator has the ability to set a timeframe on when a message gets removed from both the sender and/or receiver’s phone per company policies.
Using a secure messaging solution and applying the use cases above will undoubtedly help healthcare providers quickly and cost effectively meet some of the more difficult Meaningful Use Stage 2 goals. After all, complying with these rules will only improve the productivity and overall quality of care from a healthcare organization.