Meaningful Use Attestation Issues for EHR Companies

Many of you have probably read about the problems that GE Centricity EHR software had with a few of the meaningful use guidelines. If you haven’t read about it, go and check out that link to read Priya Ramachandran’s post about what happened. Plus, you can read a GE representative’s additional comments and clarifications. I actually had the chance to talk with GE in person at MGMA about these issues. While there’s no doubt that GE is taking heat for these problems (and they should), I personally believe it just highlights a bunch of possible problems with meaningful use attestation and raises a lot of unanswered questions.

My first premise is this, “If a large EHR vendor that’s intimately involved in the meaningful use rule creation process can mess up some of the meaningful use guidelines, how many other EHR vendors are going to do the same?”

This is a serious issue. Imagine you’re using an EHR software that runs into this problem. How quickly will that EHR vendor respond? Will they even know that they have an issue with meaningful use attestation before it’s too late? At least GE caught it early and can now address the issue for all of their doctors that are affected and get their EHR stimulus money. Even if they don’t get it resolved this year (which wouldn’t be a good outcome), then they do have next year which pays the same amount of money.

I’m not sure the same outcome will occur for some doctor who instead of proactively realizing a meaningful use attestation mistake gets “caught” with some mistake in some sort of meaningful use attestation audit. I guess we’ll see how those play out, but I imagine it won’t be as pleasant for MU attestation issues to be caught in an audit.

Plus, I think there’s very little doubt that there are other EHR companies which haven’t implemented the meaningful use attestation requirements quite right. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we hear of more issues. In fact, I have a feeling that EHR vendors that are reading this post are ready to forward it to their meaningful use expert/development staff to evaluate if they’re at risk for such a problem. The answer is that many EHR vendors likely are at risk. I imagine part of the risk is due to laziness in implementing the meaningful use guidelines (I guess they haven’t been reading our Meaningful Use Monday series), but the other part is that it’s not like meaningful use is that simple. It’s not quite the tax code, but it’s not always that straightforward.

This incident does bring up a whole new set of questions for CMS to answer. For example, what happens if a doctor attests to meaningful use and then realizes that for some reason (their fault, their EHR vendor’s fault or some other situation) they actually didn’t meet the meaningful use guidelines as required? Do they need to show another 90 days of meaningful use? Do they need to return their EHR stimulus check? Will CMS take the money back out of future payments? Can a physician go back and fix any mistakes that were made (this will likely depend on what went wrong)?

I’ll be keeping an eye on this discussion and we’ll do our best to post what GE and others learn from CMS when it comes to mistakes in meaningful use attestation. I have a feeling this could get a little messy. Based on my own experience with CMS in the past, I have a feeling they’re going to be as lenient as they possibly can be. However, they’re still going to have to follow whatever legal guidelines they’ve been given.

One other question that still makes me wonder is why didn’t the CCHIT EHR certification catch this mistake too? This would obviously require a pretty good dive into the EHR certification guidelines and the implementation of these guidelines. To me it highlights how little value the EHR certification process adds to the EHR market.

I have a feeling that this post has people like Dr. West enjoying their Meaningful Use Freedom even more.

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.

6 Comments

  • *start rant*

    It is even worse for some small EHR vendors that have existed for over 20 years – like the one I work for. The government has no idea how ugly and not applicable many key elements of meaningful use (defined as the government chooses) are for non-primary care, highly specialized providers.

    Here’s a conundrum that frames EHR certification and meaningful use in a way I rarely see it discussed (and would love for someone to explore more *hint hint*) – take a small, but established vendor of EHR software which is not yet certified.

    This vendor provides software to a niche industry of highly specialized providers, who do not derive any real or identifiable value from meaningful use as it is defined (to keep things generic I will omit the specific part of the industry).

    To get software 100% EHR certified you must fulfill all of the requirements, even if, as a vendor, your customers will not make use of, or benefit from, most of the functionality. Please take as an assumption (for this discussion) that only 30-40% of the EHR certification requirements are of value to the customer.

    Since the customer will not make use of the functionality, they don’t want really want to pay for a 100% EHR certified product. But they sure would like the incentive money (or in the case of Medicare providers, will get penalized if they didn’t do meaningful use).

    As a small vendor, your big competitors are all EHR certified (and some are even free), but even if it didn’t make sense for the customer – because the other (typically larger) vendor can afford to implement it, even if it is sloppy. Customers see a well-known product name from a large company is EHR certified – so EHR certification gives those who complete it an edge – even if it makes zero financial or functional sense.

    I hate being a pessimist, as surely some good has come from meaningful use. However, as we are seeing by these posts, what value does EHR certification and meaningful use TRULY bring to the provider, other than the requisite piece of paper to get incentive money? We need to see many, many more successes, and in my specific case, we need to make sense of how to make something which is not useful… useful somehow.

    Sure, the answer to this might be that in the long run, vendors with better or more applicable products will always win out, but we know that this isn’t always true based on long-term software contracts or lack of desire to switch vendors. Or the answer might be that highly specialized providers only account for 20% or less, and 80% of the provider population is primary care or similar handle meaningful use just fine. Or maybe that I’m just crying in my beer!

    Nevertheless, we have this catch-22.. or an enigma wrapped in a mystery shrouded in a riddle.

    *end rant* Comments? Thoughts?

  • Hi Jon,
    Sounds like things I’ve written many times before. At least I think I’m generally doing my part to describe what you described. Plus, I’ve heard it from dozens of other EHR vendors.

    Of course, while I’m not one to beat a dead horse, I think in marketing they say you have to see things 3 times (or some number) to remember it. So, I’ll turn your comment into a future post so that more people can read it. Plus, you do a nice job summarizing the challenge of specialties with meaningful use.

  • Your last statement hit the nail on the head. I would encourage as many people as possible to join me. The money isn’t worth the meaningless steps you have to take to get it. It would be difficult for me to explain exactly. An observer would have to watch over my shoulder what (number of mouse clicks) I would have to do in my EHR’s environment to document enough for a single patient to “count” in the MU program. Such a HUGE waste of my valuable time.

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