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After all is said, the meaningful use attestation process was not as bad as I had originally suspected.
A few months ago, I shared with our readers my experiences with digesting the rules and regulations given by CMS for using my EHR in a “meaningful” way. I am pleased to report that I successfully completed the attestation process in early December and my practice is now making plans for continuing into 2012.
Just a few weeks ago, CMS informed us that those medical practices that successfully attested in 2011 would not have to meet the requirements for Stage 2 of meaningful use. What this means is that no major changes are needed for reporting meaningful use in 2012 and those of us that have completed Stage 1 are simply required to continue the same process into 2012.
My EHR vendor was way ahead of the game for meaningful use reporting and a simple report was all that was needed for completing the reporting process. I had attempted to complete the reporting process in the late summer of 2011, but quickly found that some of our work flow processes needed to be modified before successful reporting could take place. Fortunately, the first attempt at reporting showed me the areas in which my practice was deficient and simply addressing those areas, while maintaining efficient work flows for the areas that we had no deficiencies in, allowed my practice to easily meet and exceed the percentage requirements for all measures.
There was just a bit of difficulty with using the CMS website for reporting. First of all, I started the reporting process using the NPI number for my practice and later found that using my own physician NPI number was required for successful reporting. Once this was completed, all I had to do was run the simple report from my EHR software and essentially plug in the numbers. The whole process of completing the reporting process took about 45 minutes from start to finish. Since I have completed the process, I have been able to lend a helping hand to other physicians in my area and share my experiences with them. This has prevented them from utilizing an expensive consulting company and my colleagues have been very grateful.
The bonus received for successfully completing Stage 1 was put to good use as soon as it was received. I was able to upgrade several computer workstations in my practice and this will prevent me from having to purchase more expensive hardware in the near future. I was also able to have the additional funds that were needed to upgrade my database server. My server was actually due to be replaced in late 2011 anyway, but with the additional funds received, I was able to purchase a "Cadillac" class server rather than the economy model that was originally planned. I am hopeful that the more robust server will last longer than the planned 4 to 5 years and the return on my investment will pay off for years to come with increased computing efficiency.
My EHR vendor also plans to release an iPad application later this month and I was also able to purchase an additional iPad solely for office use only. Since I visit patients out of the office, both in their homes and in nursing homes, I will be able to use the iPad to more efficiency complete their encounters at the point of care and have instant access to their charts.
After all is said, the meaningful use attestation process was not as bad as I had originally suspected. The first year bonus for successful completion has allowed me to significantly upgrade my existing IT infrastructure and I am hopeful this upgrade will carry me for years into the future. The years to follow will provide incentive payments as well, however the amounts will decline with the passing of each year. Since the majority of my expenditures have already been accounted for, I plan to use the balance of the meaningful use bonuses to replace other aging desktops, printers, wireless access points, and other IT equipment as needed. I am hopeful that other insurers will see the benefits of physicians using EHR systems and am hopeful that they will also provide incentive payments to us in the future as well. One can only hope.
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