Because of the failure of many EHR products to obtain MU Stage 2 certification, physicians using those EHRs are being forced to buy and implement a different EHR
Like the jaws of a vise squeezing together, the nation’s clinical laboratories and pathology groups now find themselves caught in the jaws of the federal government’s complex program to encourage providers to adopt and use electronic health record (EHR) systems.
One jaw is the failure of many EHR systems to certify to Meaningful Use Stage Two requirements, thus exposing physicians using those EHRs to substantial Medicare penalties as early as this year.
The other jaw of this proverbial vise is the need—for the second time—for many medical laboratories to spend substantial amounts of money to create a new LIS-to-EHR interface to those client physicians who are replacing their first EHR system, because it is not certified to Meaningful Use Stage 2 and they want to avoid Medicare penalties for use of a non-certified EHR.
Nearly 1,500 MU-1 Certified EHR Systems Have Yet to Be MU-2 Certified
Few pathologists and clinical lab managers know how grim this aspect of the Meaningful Use program is. The numbers that tell the tale are stunning: of the 1,956 ambulatory “complete” EHRs certified in 2011, only 547 were certified at the end of 2014!
As of today, this means that approximately 72% of certified EHR systems have failed to gain certification as compliant with the requirements of Meaningful Use Stage 2. Savvy lab executives understand the ramifications of this situation and the financial challenges it presents their lab organizations.
Physicians without MU Stage 2-certified EHRs Will Pay Medicare Penalty
First, it can be expected that many of a lab’s client physicians will find themselves stuck with an EHR product that does not certify as Meaningful Use Stage 2-compliant. Because of that fact, some of these physicians will be assessed a penalty of at least a 1% cut in their Medicare reimbursement, as early as this year.
Second, some significant number of these physicians will decide to scrap their existing EHR that is not MU Stage 2 certified and purchase a new EHR system that is MU Stage 2 certified. When they do this, the first phone call they will make is to your lab to request an LIS-to-EHR interface—as soon as possible! And your lab, wanting to retain this client, will find itself spending money a second time to create a new interface. Few labs are prepared for this scenario, let alone budgeting the funds necessary to create such LIS-to-EHR interfaces.
However, for labs facing this dismal situation, there may be a silver lining—a way to step up and help the physicians turn their unwelcome EHR situation into a winning solution. In the process, clinical labs and pathology groups will be seen as adding value.
Physicians’ EHR Problems Have Both Upsides and Downsides for Labs
“We know that many fewer EHR vendors are compliant with MU Stage 2,” observed Pat Wolfram, Director of EMR and Lab Integration for Liaison Healthcare Informatics in Alpharetta, Georgia. “For labs, there is a downside and an upside for each one of these situations.
“The downside for labs is the additional costs the lab will incur once a client physician selects a new MU Stage-2 certified EHR and asks the lab to interface this new system with its LIS,” explained Wolfram. “This is both expensive and time-consuming for labs—particularly when they are building the second such interface for the same physician’s office.”
However, Wolfram points out that there is substantial upside for labs in these same situations. “Smart lab executives will recognize the positive opportunity presented by these situations,” he said. “Let me explain why.”
“By now, most clinical labs and pathology groups have several years of experience working to interface with many different EHR systems,” noted Wolfram. “That is why a lab’s IT team knows which EHR products are well-designed and productive for physicians, and which EHR products are, to put it bluntly, stinkers! From actual experience, labs have seen the best and worst of EHR products, and everything in between.
“Labs can turn this experience to their advantage,” he advised. “Because of this experience with multiple EHR products, labs have invaluable expertise. They can advise physicians on which EHR vendors have solid lab integration capabilities. Most physicians assume an EHR can integrate well, but that’s not automatically true for every EHR product.”
Clinical Labs Can Proactively Help Clients Choose New EHR Systems
“Currently, we advise our lab clients to be proactive when they see a client physician considering purchasing a new EHR that will be certified to MU Stage 2,” said Wolfram. “By all means, a lab should step forward and share its experience gained from writing LIS-to-EHR interfaces with different EHR systems.
“Labs need not be shy about touting their experience,” he added. “After all, the lab has strong credibility because it is already working with different EHR systems. Physicians who want to get it right with a second EHR purchase will listen to their laboratory’s recommendation on these points.”
Wolfram also cautions that Meaningful Use Stage 2 is not the only challenge facing labs and their client physicians. He notes that the government’s timeline for EHR adoption will soon move to Meaningful Use Stage 3. Clinical lab managers and pathologists will want to understand how their labs must support the following:
- Use of EHRs to support care coordination;
- Use of EHRs to ensure problem-free transitions of care; and,
- Use of EHRs in ways that improve interoperability and the seamless movement of healthcare data.
To help labs understand all the challenges, and to provide them with smart solutions, THE DARK REPORT has arranged a timely webinar titled: “What All Labs Need to Know about Recent Developments in Meaningful Use: Why Medicare Penalties Loom for Physicians and How Labs Can Execute Better Interfaces at Less Cost.” This 90-minute webinar will take place on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, at 1 PM EDT.
You’ll learn from two leading experts, Ken Willett and Pat Wolfram of Liaison Healthcare, who have been programming EHRs since the early 1990s, when the first pioneering EHR systems were under development.
Best of all, you can have every member of your lab team who is involved in supporting client physicians with their LIS-to-EHR interfaces participate in this webinar. For a single tuition, everyone on your lab team can participate and learn how to prepare for the next round of Meaningful Use challenges, while understanding how to spot the opportunities to add value to your lab’s existing clients. Use this link to register today (or copy and paste this URL in your browser: http://darkdaily.com/audio-conferences/webinar-what-all-labs-need-to-know-about-recent-developments-in-meaningful-use-32515.)