It’s hard to believe that just three years ago or so the phrase “Meaningful Use” meant something entirely different than what we in the medical world now understand it to be (that is, if you truly and completely do understand it!).
As we all know, in March, the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) released suggested rules for meeting Stage 2 Meaningful Use standards. In July, CMS sent the final rule listing the criteria for hospitals and healthcare providers to the Office of Management and Budget. OMB now needs to approve it and this is the final step in the process.
The American Medical Association has come out fairly strongly against many of the criteria, stating that they are onerous and nearly impossible for physicians to meet.
We in the clinical documentation industry have long been skeptical of the AMA’s position on Meaningful Use; it is often said that the AMA appears self-serving and unfairly critical of anything that is going to make their jobs more difficult and potentially less profitable.
While these are fair observations, they overlook three important points:
First, we in the clinical documentation industry have a vested financial interest in Meaningful Use – there is no point in trying to pretend otherwise. If properly implemented, Meaningful Use really will improve patient care and documentation. But let’s not pretend that doctors express concerns for financial reasons and we express support from a purely humanitarian standpoint – there is a lot of money to be made in Meaningful Use and we should start by admitting that.
Second, it would be naïve to ignore the politics of the situation. The AMA is THE power player in any healthcare debate and we fight them at our peril. As we try to shape and guide government regulations, we would be better served by working closely WITH the AMA, finding common ground where we can join forces and concentrate our efforts as a team.
Last, and most important, if we dismiss the AMA’s objections, we run the risk of putting our own business interests before patient care. Physicians are our warriors on the frontlines of healthcare and we need to pay them heed. Meaningful Use was created to improve patient care and documentation and if all works as planned, it certainly will. But doctors – not transcriptionists or EHR vendors – are the ones who stand next to patients. If they feel some Meaningful Use requirements will disrupt their ability to concentrate on care, we need to listen closely, not dismiss their concerns as “business interests.”
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