Chief information officers at healthcare providers and insurance firms are worried that their organizations won’t be able to win so-called "meaningful use" designation for electronic health records systems in time to take advantage of government subsidies, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In a survey of 120 CIOs, the consulting firm found that 80 percent are "concerned with the ability to meet MU requirements within the specified time frame."
"Without a set of final rules in place, lack of clarity around certain criteria and reporting requirements has left some CIOs at an impasse," according to the report. "Fueling the concern are availability of skilled IT resources, infrastructure requirements, vendor readiness, and effecting behavioral change across the organization."
The federal government is promising about $40,000 out of a $20 billion kitty to each physician practice, hospital or other healthcare provider that can prove "meaningful use" of an EMR system, but has yet to establish exactly what it means by meaningful use. More than a third of the CIOs surveyed said they’re also worried about software vendors’ ability to deliver systems that will meet the criteria, with 44 percent saying their HIT vendors aren’t ready.
“I think we all wonder if we’re going to be ready,” John McInally, CIO for MetroHealth System in Cleveland, told MedCity News. “I don’t know any of my colleagues anywhere that feel they’re completely ready for meaningful use."
In order to be eligible for the federal handout, healthcare providers must use a certified EMR product and be able to demonstrate the ability to meet reporting requirements.
"The real test, though, will be the new quality reporting requirements that come with this meaningful use,” McInally said. “So it’s not enough to just have the information systems installed from certified vendors, but you also have to be able to produce reporting that demonstrates you’re using those systems to assure high-quality patient care.”
The PWC survey showed that healthcare providers that pull doctors, patients and insurers into the loop are more likely to be ready to apply for stimulus cash next year. But less than 20 percent of the CIOs surveyed said their employers are including patient input into their meaningful use initiatives. By contrast, 63 percent said their organizations are already working with physicians or will in the next six months.
Material from MedCity News was used in this report.