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Friday, 25 March 2016

Is Meaningful Use for Behavioral Healthcare Ending or is it Evolving After 2016?

Frustrated Doctor

Physicians have freely expressed frustration over the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Meaningful Use program.“Doctors want to spend their time with patients, not measuring the number of clicks,” American Medical Association (AMA) President Steven J. Stack, MD, said late last year in a statement.

The AMA notes that Meaningful Use has achieved its main objective — spurring adoption of EHRs and supporting protection of patient health information. But the group also recommended several changes to improve the program. Suggestions include increasing flexibility and eliminating a pass-fail program design; allowing for multiple methods/paths to achieve desired end goals; removing threshold requirements for measures outside of the physician’s control; and shifting measures away from process-based tasks and toward highlighting goals that are useful to patients and physicians.

In an acknowledgment of the program’s problems, last month CMS extended the deadline for hospitals, physicians, and other eligible professionals to file applications for exemptions from the meaningful-use requirements of the EHR incentive payment program. CMS moved the deadline to July 1 “so providers have sufficient time to submit their applications to avoid adjustments to their Medicare payments in 2017,” the agency explained.

The extension follows reports that CMS intends to drop the Meaningful Use program altogether and replace it with new procedures. But experts note that healthcare practitioners shouldn’t celebrate Meaningful Use’s demise just yet.

In a 2014 survey by the consulting firm Software Advice, 34% of patients reported unresponsive staff, while 33% of patients cited confusing portal interfaces. Also worrisome was the finding that 33% of the 1,540 U.S. patients surveyed were unsure if they had access to a portal.

“This does not mean that Meaningful Use will end — instead, it will evolve,” wrote Naomi Levinthal, a consultant with Health Care IT Advisor. She expects Meaningful Use to continue through 2016 for eligible professionals as well as eligible hospitals and critical access units.

The Meaningful Use program has created specific problems for behavioral healthcare practices since psychiatrists are eligible for funding, but psychologists and social workers (who often comprise most of a clinical staff) are not. As a consequence, these agencies cannot capitalize on incentive payments like general medical practices.

Suffice it to say, confusion about MU’s future is rampant. We at ClinicTracker feel your pain. Because we have always been committed to adapting and updating our software to meet changing government regulations, we invested heavily in upgrading our program to comply with a significant number of criteria, many of which were not specifically relevant to the behavioral health industry. Now we learn more changes are on the way, some of which will override our prior efforts.

ClinicTracker was one of the first behavioral health EHRs to obtain Meaningful Use Stage 2 certification in 2014. Our Meaningful Use version reports, in real time, how well your agency is meeting eligibility requirements. It also calculates your incentive reimbursements. Our Meaningful Use Dashboard tracks all the indicators and objectives required to report to CMS. You can even find out whether your agency qualifies for funds under the Meaningful Use program.

We’ll keep a close eye on the new Stage 3 requirements – or whatever program takes their place. Like you, we hope that any new criteria will be clear, sensible, fair to behavioral healthcare providers, and a further inducement for quality patient care.

About ClinicTracker

ClinicTracker is a robust, future-proof mental health and substance abuse EHR. Dr. Michael Gordon, a renowned clinical psychologist, and Joshua Gordon, an award-winning software engineer, founded the company in 2000. ClinicTracker EHR’s powerful software empowers your agency to succeed. ClinicTracker will automate all of your clinic routines, boost staff productivity, increase billing efficiency, and provide the tools you need to manage your clinic effectively. While mental health and substance abuse agencies are the most common group of users, foster care agencies, social services, equine assisted therapy programs, university clinics, academic counseling systems, family counseling services, and eating disorder clinics also take advantage of our powerful software.

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