Oklahoma Practice 'Elated' to Be First with EHR Incentive Check

January 24, 2011

Want to learn more on how to meet "meaningful use" from someone who has already received $42,500 in federal incentives? Let an Oklahoma practice show you how it's done.

An Oklahoma primary-care practice is among the first in the country to receive federal incentive funds from CMS for achieving meaningful use through their EHR - and it took only two days.

The process itself took a bit longer, but Darrell Ledbetter, practice manager for Durant, Okla.-based Gastorf Family Clinic tells Physicians Practice that the two-physician practice went right to the online registration page CMS set up for meaningful use on Jan. 3, the first day it was available. After confirming its patient care volume as greater than 30 percent Medicaid - meeting the eligibility criteria - the practice completed the rest of its paperwork the following day to submit for incentive funds.

On Jan. 5, Ledbetter said the practice was presented with a symbolic check for $42,500: $21,500 for each eligible professional under the Medicaid program. The funds themselves are delivered from the federal government by direct deposit.

"We are elated to be among the first to be paid the EHR incentive," Ledbetter said via e-mail.

He admits they did not do this alone. In fact, Ledbetter credits the local Regional Extension Center (REC), the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality (OFMQ), for preparing the practice to meet meaningful use. A healthcare IT consultant from OFMQ met with the practice to lay out exactly what they needed to do to meet meaningful use.

MEETING MEANINGFUL USE
Last summer, the practice partnered with e-MDs - its EHR vendor of five years - for a new, certified EHR system, and through hard work by staff and ongoing training, Ledbetter said by Jan. 1 of this year, the practice was able to meet CMS' meaningful use criteria.

In addition to meeting the 15 core objectives of “meaningful use,” Ledbetter said the practice met the following five additional objectives:
• Implemented drug formulary checks via SureScripts;
• Incorporated clinical lab test results into EHR through an interface that loads lab information into the patient chart and forwards a message to the physician showing available results;
• Provided a summary of care record within the chart application of its EHR;
• Provided timely electronic access to health information by giving patients a complete record following physician documentation either at end of visit or end of business day; and
• Generated lists of patients by conditions

Shortly thereafter, Ledbetter says the practice was contacted by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to indicate that it could receive the first, physician-paid incentive check by CMS in the state.

"We wanted to assist the OHCA in getting the information out that there really was money out there for the program and encourage other providers to participate," Ledbetter says. "We really feel that this is a worthwhile program, and pushing forward with the Health Information Exchange will be very beneficial to providers nationwide."

Carter Kimble, a spokesman with the OHCA, says his agency and the OFMQ are "aligned in our goals to lay the foundation of EHR use so we can all move forward.

"This is a steel and concrete kind of step," he says. "We are at the base level and want to build this up, get started, …and get the most providers we can engaged."

ADVICE FOR PRACTICES
From his practice's experience, Ledbetter says that he encourages all eligible professionals to participate in seeking meaningful use incentives. Finding a good vendor partner, he says, is key to starting the process to meet meaningful use, especially one that fits their practice needs.

"There are many good EHRs on the market, so each provider has their own ways and special needs, and they should look at several different systems and determine what fits their practice the best," he says.

In addition to contacting vendors, Ledbetter encourages practices to contact their state partners, including their Regional Extension Center, for help in preparing for meaningful use, beginning with selection of the EHR in the first place.

"If a practice can implement an EHR and become familiar with its operation, then meaningful use will evolve naturally as they become experts using the system," he says. "Most EHR vendors have training staff and 'go live' teams that will assist in the setup and implementation of the program within [practices]. The implementation teams are very knowledgeable and can customize these software programs to fit the practice’s needs. Don’t wait until it is too late."

And for practices with an EHR already in place, Ledbetter says the Regional Extension Centers are ideal resources to ensure you have a certified system and lay out how you can meet meaningful use criteria.

Kimble said that he also hopes physicians' practices engage their state partners in moving toward greater EHR use and meeting meaningful use guidelines. The physician networks in each state are strong, he recognizes, so while he is certain doctors will turn to other doctors for help, Kimble also reminds them that there are others ready and willing to help.

"In Oklahoma, we want to get that money out there as much as [practices] want to get that money into their offices," he says. "Those practices' issues and roadblocks are our issues and roadblocks, so reach out to whoever you can to get past them."