Misleading Meaningful Use Marketing

In one of my recent discussions with a reader of EMR and HIPAA, they said they loved this site because I don’t have any agenda. Then, they quickly clarified, your only agenda is to have transparency in the process. Your agenda is to bring to light all the information related to a certain topic so that doctors can make an informed decision.

I think this reader hit it right on the head. I really don’t have an agenda. I’m generally pro-EHR, but I understand doctors misgivings on why they’re concerned about doing it. Although, I am completely fanatical about having transparency and good information (both good and bad) about the EMR and EHR process.

That’s why I get all worked up when EMR advertising or EMR sales people provide misleading information. In fact, I have a whole category on my site for what I refer to as EMR Sales Miscommunications. To be honest, most of the misinformation is not intentional (although, there are certainly exceptions). Instead, it’s usually someone answering a question for which they don’t actually know the real information.

Today’s misleading information comes from a blog post by Athena Health (which was also included in their newsletter). The title basically says it all: “A Shreveport OB-GYN Gets $21,250 for Meaningful Use of an EMR”


As Lynn pointed out in her latest Meaningful Use Monday post, no one has been able to show meaningful use yet. The government hasn’t done any checking on meaningful use yet. Not to mention, not a single person has been paid any EHR incentive money for Medicare yet (where we’re going to see the bulk of meaningful use).

Instead, the blog post describes that the practice got the EHR incentive money because they have a “high Medicaid population.” Which makes total sense, because in the Medicaid EHR incentive program there is currently no requirement that you be a meaningful user of an EHR. The title could have more accurately read, “A Shreveport OB-GYN Gets $21,250 from the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program for Buying an EMR.”

The crazy thing is that I’m sure that many people at Athena Health know the difference and realize that it’s a terrible title. In fact, the title was probably written by some marketing or PR person who barely knows the difference between Medicaid and Medicare. Let alone the difference in how the various EHR incentive programs work. Although, why would someone with knowledge at Athena Health change the headline when it benefits Athena to have that misinformation out there?

This kind of stuff gets under my skin. I hate when people are misled by bad information. Add in the complexities and vagueness of meaningful use and the EHR government hand outs and it’s a the perfect microcosm for misleading marketing.

UPDATE: Props to AthenaHealth for updating their blog post to correct the misleading information.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • As an American with basic rights I think the rumor that federal law demands all healthcare providers purchase EHRs by 2014 to be particularly aggravating.

  • Frankly, there are a lot of providers out there that will have nothing to do with Medicare and Medicaid and thus will not be incentivized or penalized. I’m about to join those ranks and will be blogging about it next.

  • @Dr. West … What a great position to pursue and being able to define for yourself the value of a particular EMR for your practice, patients, and your own quality of life.

    You may find that in defining your own Meaningful Use measures that EMR A wins out against the competition because of the high confidence it gives you that you will be able to get to your daughter’s volleyball games on Tue or Thu afternoons.

  • John,

    As a representative of athenahealth responsible for our blog, I applaud your efforts to call out misleading statements in the industry about EMRs. There’s enough material out there to keep your discussion going for quite some time. However, I must take issue with your insinuation that our post was “misleading” simply because the word “Medicaid” didn’t appear in the title. The word “Medicaid” appears 5 times in the first 3 paragraphs of the post and the entire context of the piece is clearly focused on the Medicaid MU program. A title is just that – a title. It’s not meant to convey everything relevant that’s below it. In this case it would have been highly unlikely for someone who even read part of the post to be misled. In any case, that was clearly not the intent.

    John Fox

  • J Fox,
    Thanks for stopping by. The post was definitely not misleading because the word “Medicaid” didn’t appear in the title. I’d say it was misleading more because the word Meaningful Use was in the title when in fact Medicaid didn’t require any meaningful use to get paid.

    I think you’re really downplaying the effect of a title. It has much more impact on someone than what you describe. Especially someone who is just glancing through the headlines from your newsletter and doesn’t take time to read the stories.

    However, even if they did read the story, I still think they’d be misled. In the first sentence you say “they became one of the first practices in the United States to get paid by the government for Meaningful Use of an electronic medical record.”

    This just isn’t true since they didn’t get paid for meaningful use of an EMR since Medicaid doesn’t check meaningful use. They just check that you bought an EMR.

    I’m glad to hear that wasn’t the intent. In fact, I mention that’s probably the case in the post above. It’s often the case with misinformation. The beauty of a blog and online newsletter is that you can go and update it with correct information. I hope you do.

  • John,

    Yes, that is the beauty of the internet and of blogs – if anything’s not clear we can discuss it and remedy it as needed. We’ve gone and updated the post to clarify any further misunderstanding of what we were saying there.

    Thanks for reading our blog.

    J Fox

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