Five Steps for Success with HITECH Incentives
By Sam Rubinsztain
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act allocates $19 billion to hospitals and physicians who demonstrate Meaningful Use of certified Electronic Health Records (EHR), and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Simply installing an EHR system isn't enough to qualify for incentives â€“ additional steps must be taken as part of the selection and implementation process to ensure you're using the software in accordance with HITECH Act guidelines. The final rules for Stage 1 and Stage 2 are outlined in documents that span many hundreds of pages. These documents can be overwhelming to decipher, and it's not easy to know whether you're in compliance.
As you're starting the process of selecting and implementing an EHR system, follow these five steps for success with HITECH incentives.
Step 1: Understand the criteria
Keep your organization in mind as you review the HITECH core and menu objectives. Your group may already be meeting some of the requirements even without an EHR system in place (for example, recording smoking status for more than 80% of patients). Some objectives might not apply to your organization, so be sure to analyze all of your processes thoroughly.
Step 2: Establish a project leader
It's critical to identify a main point of contact for your EHR implementation project. This individual should have the authority to make and enforce process changes and have solid communication skills. It often works best to name a practice administrator, clinical director or nursing director as project lead, rather than a physician.
Step 3: Create a detailed plan
Enlist the assistance of a HITECH expert when building your project plan. A solid plan will address EHR software selection and implementation and include any necessary modifications to business processes. A HITECH expert can guide your project team through a complete review of current workflows and processes to help determine which criteria to focus on first. You can easily start with requirements that you're already meeting or those that will impact your current process the least. Some organizations start by meeting the highest threshold first, as this will likely cover other requirements (for example, tracking demographics for 80% of patients).
Step 4: Measure adoption
Thoroughly measuring adoption is time-consuming but essential, and it's best to start from day one. Making progress visible to staff on a weekly basis helps reinforce appropriate behavior. By regularly reviewing your data, you can easily identify exceptions and correct them through training. By measuring early and often, you can quickly course-correct as needed. The HITECH Act requires each provider to report on 90 consecutive days of meaningful use for the first year for each stage, and while your EHR system will provide some of the necessary data, you must supplement with your own attestations. Your HITECH expert can help you determine the best reporting approach as part of the planning process.
Step 5: Motivate your staff
To keep employees on board with your HITECH initiative, you must keep them motivated. What motivates each individual varies according to his or her role. Physicians are often partners who will benefit financially from incentive payouts, so they are intrinsically motivated to comply. For reporting staff, personal incentives such as Starbucks cards or similar rewards might be more effective.
The amount of time spent by staff members to implement a HITECH qualification plan can easily cancel out your incentive money. Without an advisor, you could spend over 100 hours on planning and implementation, plus one hour per week per physician on meeting requirements. Reporting staff will likely spend an additional two hours per physician for attestation. An advisor can cut the amount of time your team must invest by 80%.
How do you choose the right advisor? A true expert will have a history of successful implementations and incentive collection, with a roster of satisfied clients who can talk about the process. A quality advisor does not charge an hourly rate â€“ instead, their fee should be a percentage of the incentives they help your organization collect. This ensures that their focus is on the right things.
Penalties for non-adoption of certified EHR technology will begin in 2015, so it's critical for your organization to implement certified EHR technology to avoid incurring fees. Avoid wasting time and money by involving a HITECH expert or advisor from the start.
Sam Rubinsztain is Vice President of Product Development at gMed, the largest specialty EHR provider in the United States. For more information on gMed's EHR solutions and HITECH Advisor service, visit www.gmed.com or call 888-577-8801.