September 21, 2015 Owen Carey

What’s Your Meaningful Use Strategy?

There are plenty of physicians who will give anyone who will listen an earful of how technology is disrupting their practice – and not in a positive way. For all its good intentions, Meaningful Use is often a target of such frustration.

While many people can sympathize, the ones who really understand their pain are other doctors. Many look to digital physician communities where they can collaborate with peers and experts in the field – thereby gaining knowledge that may help address the questions and challenges they have around Meaningful Use. 

Health system executives can take advantage of this platform to better engage their physicians in their own Meaningful Use strategy – from communicating expectations to sharing important information to providing a feedback loop ensuring that physicians have a voice in the organization’s overall strategic direction.

Convincing the unconvinced, preparing the unprepared
While it’s easy enough to understand how physicians feel about Meaningful Use anecdotally, responses from approximately 200 physicians in April of this year offer some quantitative measure of their attitudes:

–          33% say their organization will not meet Meaningful Use in 2015; 39% say they will meet Stage 2, and 28% say they will meet Stage 1
–          30% say they are “not confident” that their organization will be able to meet the required stage this year
–          Just 14% say that the Stage 3 proposed rule is a step in the right direction, while 66% are still unsure

Physicians cite the administrative burden of Meaningful Use, which they believe takes away from time spent providing care. They also question the feasibility of patient compliance that’s part of these guidelines, and many bristle at the sheer amount of rules to absorb into practice. In the words of one physician, “There’s too much riding on it; it’s hard to get mass education done in a timely manner.”

Health systems that invest in physician engagement tools have the opportunity to give physicians access to that kind of “mass education” they are asking for. For example, an online, expert-led interactive presentation titled Achieving your EHR Incentive generated the kind of feedback and collaboration that many physicians apparently crave. In the words of one physician participant: “Thanks…I think I learned as much from the discussion as from the speaker on this one.” 

SEE ALSO: Physician Perceptions of Evidence-Based Medicine

Bridging communication between physicians and executives
The trend is clear – physicians are increasingly joining organizations such as ACOs and IDNs. This of course has a limiting effect on the tools they select to help meet Meaningful Use criteria. In fact, many physicians specifically express their frustration with having to use a system that they didn’t choose to achieve metrics they don’t necessarily think are important to achieving better care. 

The good news is that many physicians are eager to do their part to achieve better outcomes and deliver more efficient care that’s at the core of some of these Meaningful Use requirements – they just may not have the information and resources they need to participate as fully as they’d like. In the words of one physician who engaged with an online expert-led interactive presentation on the topic of Electronic Health Records and Meaningful Use, “What is my responsibility as an employee, with my NPI and certification with Medicare and Medicaid to ensure Meaningful Use? My inquiry is met with consternation by administration and others – as if what business is it of mine to know these things!”

This is a relatively common disconnect. In fact, The Advisory Board has developed its own recommendations for “crossing the communication chasm” between health system administrators and their affiliated physicians. One of the key issues the consultant identifies is the tendency of organizations to request physician action without defining a shared vision for success. The Advisory Board has its own recommendations for addressing this, and our experience shows that health systems who put forth the effort to engage physicians in meaningful, valuable ways see the benefits.

For example, a top-performing Accountable Care Organization uses an online physician engagement platform to explain specific guidelines related to medical documentation. While the content is mandatory for affiliated physicians, the interactive format helps put it in context of why it’s important to the overall success of the organization. Physicians have an easy way to ask questions of, and offer feedback directly to, the executives sponsoring these guidelines. This approach also engages physicians in other topics they might find relevant to their practice – such as population health, clinical integration, managing advance directives, and more – which also reflect the organization’s strategic initiatives.

Physicians access valuable content that supports their own professional development, while the health system knows how (and by whom) their message has been received, and can assess the impact of such engagement on key measures. In a rare twist on the typical relationship between leadership and physicians, these executives actually are thanked by the doctors who engage in this valuable online content.

Key takeaway
While many healthcare organizations may be already moving towards achieving Meaningful Use, many physicians are still unconvinced that it will bring measurable value to their practice and improve their ability to care for the whole patient. Engaging physicians in these discussions through thoughtful collaboration – including with health system executives setting the overall strategy – increases physicians’ buy-in, without which Meaningful Use doesn’t stand a chance.

This article originally appeared here.

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