Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

CMS Releases Stage 2 Rule for Meaningful Use

Published in the April 2012 AAMC Reporter

By Whitney L.J. Howell

In late February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released the proposed rules for Stage 2 of meaningful use and corresponding certification requirements. The rules introduce new measurements that doctors and hospitals will be required to meet to receive incentive payments for implementing electronic health records (EHRs).

The Stage 2 meaningful use rule is part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Under HITECH, hospitals and providers can receive Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for adopting certified EHRs, using health IT in “meaningful” ways, and reporting clinical quality measures. CMS began making payments under the Stage 1 rule last year. With the law, Medicare hospitals and physicians who do not use health IT “meaningfully” will be penalized beginning in 2015. CMS has proposed criteria to determine which providers would be subject to this penalty. In most cases CMS plans to use a 2013 reporting period to identify proactively which providers are subject to a penalty, said Lori Mihalich-Levin, J.D., AAMC director of hospital and GME payment policies for health care affairs.

Industry leaders are still dissecting the details of the Stage 2 rule, but several key points already have emerged that will affect how providers approach meaningful use.

“CMS is obviously moving toward improved interoperability and information exchange,” Mihalich-Levin said. “However, there are some serious flaws with some of the proposed measures.”

The AAMC plans to submit its concerns to CMS and ONC by the May 7 deadline.

The biggest red flags in the new rule, Mihalich-Levin said, are proposals that require actions by third parties—in this case a patient—for the hospital or physician to meet the requirements. For example, hospitals and physicians must provide patients with online access to their health information. But in order to receive credit for meaningful use, at least 10 percent of patients must log on and actually view their records. An additional measure calls for at least 10 percent of patients to send their physician a secure, online message about their health care.

The problem, she said, is that there are no incentives for patients to comply, and providers cannot control whether patients feel comfortable with electronic communication, or have access to it.

“Hospitals can’t meet that requirement by implementing technology,” said Rod Piechowski, senior director of health information services at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). “They must engage the patients on a different level, get them to take action, and recognize the value of the data. It’s a little bit out of their direct control.”

The proposed rule also increases the reporting requirements for many existing measures. For example, while Stage 1 called for 30 percent of medications to be ordered through computerized provider order entry, Stage 2 bumps the requirement to 60 percent of medications, and includes laboratory and radiology orders.

“This could be something that’s a minor change, but it will still require extra work to make sure we get the right groundwork in place,” said Tom Smith, chief information officer for Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem. “It’s certainly a good idea to move away from writing down prescriptions on paper—ordering 100 percent of medications through e-prescribing would be great.”

Physicians and other clinicians who are eligible for the meaningful use incentives through Medicare also could benefit from the rule’s group reporting proposals. Rather than collecting quality measure data from each physician individually, beginning in 2014, CMS will allow doctors in group practices to report as a single unit.

“When you have a practice of hundreds or thousands of physicians, it’s logical to identify performance on clinical metrics as a group,” said Mary Patton Wheatley, AAMC manager of physician quality and payment policies. “Instead of a faculty practice trying to report measures for a variety of specialists and subspecialists (many of whom do not have relevant measures that can be reported through an EHR), the group reporting option allows the practice to focus on a single set of measures that makes sense for the practice as a whole and improves quality for the patient.”

Under the quality reporting requirement, beginning in 2014, hospitals would be able to choose which measures they report. While the element of choice is appealing, there are concerns about how this will ultimately impact the flow of measures used in other programs, including value-based purchasing.

It’s important to remember that any of these proposed measures could change in the final rule, which is expected this summer, Mihalich-Levin said. Until then, she recommended that institutions familiarize themselves with the various proposals. She added that after receiving feedback on the proposed Stage 1 requirements, CMS addressed many of the AAMC’s concerns in the final Stage 1 regulations. Over the next few months, the AAMC will review the proposed Stage 2 rules and encourage member institutions to provide feedback.

Smith agreed the proposed rule offers several benefits to teaching hospitals, but he cautioned that many of the meaningful use measures will require additional work from hospitals and physicians. Achieving certification or compliance, he said, will take time and resource investments to produce positive results.

According to Piechowski, hospitals that are just getting started on health IT will benefit from what others have learned.

“Hospitals should pay attention to what others have done, stay connected, get involved, and get ahead of the curve,” Piechowski said. “That is the best thing they can do. The people who are just getting in now are in an advantageous situation.”

Despite the challenges, health IT adoption is on the upswing. According to CMS, 35 percent of hospitals were using EHRs in 2011, compared with 16 percent in 2009. In addition, 85 percent of hospitals have said they plan to implement meaningful use and take advantage of the incentive payments by 2015. CMS will likely release proposed rules for Stage 3 of meaningful use in 2014 for implementation in 2016 and beyond.

To read article at original location: https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/reporter/april2012/279214/meaningful-use.html


April 16, 2012 Posted by | Healthcare, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retail Health Clinics on the Rise

Published in the April 12, 2o12, Billian’s HealthDATA/Porter Research Hub e-newsletter

By Whitney L.J. Howell

They’re in nearly every drug store, ready to provide a flu shot, answer questions about a skin rash, or conduct a blood pressure screening. And, every year, more retail health clinics (RHCs) appear to meet patient needs at an opportune time and place.

But with their increasing use of health information technology (HIT), RHCs are quickly moving from being clinics of convenience to being helpful partners in the overall healthcare system. This beefed-up use of technology makes it easier for patients to keep their doctors looped into their health history.

Although these clinics aren’t intended to be permanent or full-service medical homes, they do offer a wide variety of services that supplement the preventative care patients receive from their primary care providers. For example, patients can go to RHCs for routine cholesterol and blood pressure screenings; a variety of vaccinations; or treatment of respiratory infections, allergies, or some skin conditions.

The clinics are also a more affordable avenue for people who need care, but find themselves outside of the healthcare system. Data reported by the American Academy of Family Physicians has estimated a $40 service in an RHC could potentially cost more than double that in a doctor’s office, $120 in an urgent care facility, and $325 in an emergency room. Given that 16 to 27 percent of clinic patients have no health insurance, based on a 2011 RAND report, and only 39 percent have an existing relationship with a primary care provider, the lower cost could be beneficial not only to the patient’s pocketbook, but in the prevention of potentially future healthcare costs associated with developing chronic conditions.

“Retail health clinics are a huge convenience to patients,” said Mary Griskewicz, senior director of health information systems with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). “They can be screened, get their flu shot, have a rash examined, and all of this is usually within 20 feet of the pharmacy where they can get medication.”

The Rise of the Retail Health Center
When RHCs first entered the market, some in the healthcare industry pushed back. Even though they are staffed by qualified nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, many physicians contended they were inadequate clinical settings that should only be used in the most extreme circumstances.

Now, however, that opposition is disappearing, and RHCs are flourishing. In a healthcare environment where greater access is often the name of the game, a growing number of industry leaders now see these clinics as valued partners in providing preventative and primary care services.

“You are starting to see a newfound cooperation in the marketplace between retailers and their local hospital systems and physician groups,” said Thomas Charland, chief executive of Merchant Medicine, a research and consulting firm that tracks retail medical care service growth, related in a New York Times blog post earlier this year. “Physicians’ resistance is slowly melting away.”

The population of RHCs seems to have ballooned after two years of near-stagnant growth. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of these clinics rose by 11.2 percent to 1,355 nationwide. And, this trend shows no signs of slowing.

To date, retail drug stores, including Walgreen’s and CVS, have been the RHC leaders, with their Take Care Clinics and MinuteClinics, respectively. Currently, Walgreen’s has 350 Take Care Clinics nationwide, as well as 350 worksite locations. In addition, Walgreen’s announced last month that it will expand its relationship with the Tufts health plan in Massachusetts. CVS also has a considerable RHC presence – 650 MinuteClinics and a plan to add 500 more over the next five years.

Other retail giants, such as Walmart and the grocery store chains Kroger and Safeway, have launched RHC efforts within the last year.

Major hospitals and health systems are also adding clinics in retail areas in an effort to meet patients where they live and work. Recently, the Mayo Clinic opened its “Create Your Mayo Clinic Health Experience” in Minnesota’s Mall of America.” Mayo Clinic believes healthcare in the future won’t be limited to doctors’ offices and hospitals. Medicine needs to adapt to peoples’ changing needs, including seeing people where they are and when it is convenient for them,” said David Hayes, M.D., the clinic’s medical director, in an interview with FierceHealthcare. “Mall of America is the ideal gateway for many of Mall of America’s visitors to access Mayo Clinic in non-traditional ways.”

Connecting Patient Information
Despite being exempt from most Meaningful Use requirements and ineligible to receive incentive payments, HIMSS’ Griskewicz said implementing an electronic health record (EHR) is the most important HIT solution an RHC can employ. The nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant won’t complete the same level of patient history intake as a doctor’s office does, but an EHR allows them to document the encounter in some way. Patients can also potentially leave the clinic with access to an electronic copy of the record meant for his or her primary care physician.

According to Gabe Weissman, external relations manager with Walgreen’s, the company jumped head-first into HIT and developed its own EHR. The system allows any Walgreen’s nationwide to access a patient’s health records. For example, a provider in one of the Take Care Clinics can access the health records of a Pennsylvania resident who needs healthcare while on vacation in Florida.

“We’re working to ensure patients realize there are alternatives to the emergency room. We’ve formed relationships so nurse hotlines in hospitals are aware of Take Care Clinics and can route people there for services that aren’t appropriate for the ER,” he said. “We make sure we’re sharing records with primary care providers in the appropriate health system while filling a niche for slightly less emergent care.”

Walgreen’s also offers online appointment scheduling and recently launched an initiative through the social network Foursquare. Patients can use the smartphone application to electronically refill prescriptions, transfer prescriptions between Walgreen pharmacies, and schedule reminders to take medications.

The retailer’s Take Care health system was recently awarded Pointclear Solutions’ HIT Innovation Award for 2011 in recognition of its “innovation of online tools that allow patients, physicians and pharmacists to interact in near real-time, making patient health and wellness incredibly efficient for all participants, moving the healthcare industry dramatically forward,” according to a recent Pointclear press release.

One big challenge to fully utilizing an EHR still remains. There is often limited coordination between the RHC and a physician’s office or hospital. There simply are not enough resources available to safely and successfully link the RHC’s system with the wide variety of EHRs used by other clinical settings in each geographic area.

“The one problem with this situation is that there isn’t full EHR interoperability between pharmacies, hospitals and physicians,” she said. “Even if retail clinics are using an EHR, if it isn’t tethered to a physician’s office, the doctors aren’t getting the full picture.”

The one exception is e-prescribing – the only Meaningful Use requirement that does affect RHCs. Using e-prescribing services, such as Surescripts’ Clinical Interoperability, links provider, pharmacy and payer, and eliminates the need for pharmacies and physician offices to fax or mail prescription orders and patient information. Instead, with a few keystrokes, RHCs and providers can partner to compile more thorough patient histories that will lead to better, more efficient care in the future.

Griskewicz cautioned, however, that without proper staffing to fill the medication orders sent via an e-prescribing tool, the interoperability is ineffective.

More To Come
As quickly as RHCs are expanding, so are the HIT solutions to support them. Griskewicz predicted that most growth will occur with mobile technology, giving RHCs the ability to give patients their health information in easy-to-transport formats. The overall impact, she said, will be a positive effect on patient health and well-being.

“I encourage retail clinics. I encourage them to continue to use health information technology to work with outside organizations,” Griskewicz said. “They should continue down this path as technology evolves to make these health services more convenient for patients. It’s not just about bringing customers in and selling the candy on the shelves, but about improving the health of the patient.”

To read the article in its original location: http://www.porterresearch.com/Resource_Center/Blog_News/Industry_News/2012/April/Retail_Health_Clinics_on_the_Rise.html

April 12, 2012 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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