Nebraska Docs Feel Pressure of Meaningful Use Requirements | | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

Not long after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled its plans to send notices to eligible professionals to be subject to Medicare payment adjustments in 2015, stories about the challenge of meeting meaningful use requirements have once again emerged — two of which taking place in Nebraska.

Rick Ruggles (via Star-Herald) reports that some doctors in Nebraska are considering the worth of moving to certified EHR technology based on the costs associated with EHR acquisition and implementation.

“It’s a simple question of how much work for how much money, and will it help my patients,” Bob Rauner, MD, MPH, Medical Director, SERPA and Director of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln,  told the news outlet. “The answer is now, no.”

Over the next few weeks, more than 250,000 providers eligible for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program will receive notice that they will be subject to Medicare payment adjustments beginning in 2015.

“We are getting ready to start mailing the letters to the eligible professionals who will be getting this payment adjustment and it is a number that is over 257,000,” CMS officials continued, “and these people will be paid one percent less of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule amount that would otherwise apply for all their Medicare-covered professional services that they provide.”

The chief source of pain stems from the differences between Stage 1 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use such as health information exchange (HIE) and patient engagement via view, download, or transmit (VDT). Moreover, the requirement to exceed all measure thresholds in order to achieve meaningful use had some nervous about their performance.

“I was right on the brink of some of them,” Robert Wergin, MD, FAAFP, a physician and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) President revealed about his own meaningful use experience. “It was kind of painful, really.”

Others such as 80-year-old physician, MD, are simply coming to terms with the reality that meaningful use penalties are coming their way.

“We’re doing the best that we can,” he explained. “If I get fined 1 percent, which is what they’ve threatened, that’s OK. I can afford it.”

Problems with patient engagement

Regional West Health Services (RWHS) is mindful of the cost of failing to meet the patient engagement requirement of Stage 2 Meaningful Use and it is a significant. According to another Star-Herald report, the Nebraskan health system puts the figure at $280,500 in lost federal incentives for “eight specific doctors” working at Regional West Physicians Clinic.

The health system is calling on patients to help these physicians reach the goal of five-percent patient use of the patient portal.

“You are the main person who sees the information, as well as staff who need access,” RWHS CMIO Usman Akhtar, MD, told the Star-Herald. “We need the support of the community.”

The health system has not specified how many patients the five percent equates to or the number of patient who have already access their health information through the patient portal.