We believe in the potential of health information technology (IT) to improve human health. But we know that it is not just about the technology. It is about using the technology—effectively. That is why we created the Michigan Center for Effective IT Adoption (M-CEITA). M-CEITA is the state of Michigan’s Regional Extension Center (REC) for Health IT: part of a nationwide network formed to accelerate health IT adoption by primary care providers, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Critical Access Hospitals.
Altarum has helped more than 4,000 health care providers across the state of Michigan adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records (EHRs). M-CEITA serves as a trusted resource providing in-depth knowledge and interpretation of this complex federal program. Nearly all health care providers realize there is tremendous potential in modernizing their practices. However, most physicians are not experts in health IT, meaningful use program requirements, practice workflow redesign, or contract negotiations. Without technical assistance they lack the resources to appropriately evaluate their options and make the most of their investments.
About Meaningful Use
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) of 2009 made the use of electronic health records (EHRs) a national priority, transforming the practice and delivery of health care in our country. A program developed from the HITECH Act, Meaningful Use—also known as the EHR Incentive Program—spans multiple years and consists of three graduated stages with evolving requirements for participants and for technology vendors. Once designated as a meaningful user, participants are expected to sustain compliance with the progressing measures, fully capitalizing on the increased capabilities offered by their EHR, earning incentives and avoiding payment penalties. The program’s benefits include:
- Improving quality, safety, and efficiency, and reducing health disparities;
- Engaging patients and their families in health care;
- Improving care coordination;
- Ensuring adequate privacy and security protections for personal health information; and
- Improving population and public health.
How Meaningful Use is transforming health care
Meaningful use of health IT will have significant impact on patient safety, quality, and coordination of care. Stage 1 set a baseline for electronic capture of structured data and information sharing. Things like patient demographics, diagnoses, medications, allergies, and lab test results are required to be documented in patient records in commonly structured ways. Conditional system alerts use this data to improve patient safety and care quality by warning providers of potential drug interactions, patient allergies, formulary options, and rules that support better clinical decision making.
Stage 2 accelerates information exchange between health care providers, advances the incorporation of clinical decision support aides, and promotes patient engagement and shared decision making. Beginning in 2014, EHR products were required to be certified to meet these new Stage 2 standards. Stage 3, set to begin in 2017, will set high expectations for health IT and health information exchange to improve quality, safety, and efficiency, and make positive impacts on individual and population health. There will be increased focus on clinical decision support, self-management tools for patients, and patient centered health information exchange.
Information such as the patient’s problem lists, diagnostic test results, allergies, medication names, and current dosages can be quickly shared, ensuring all providers have up-to-date patient information and clinical evidence to inform their treatment determination, facilitate appropriate prescriptive decisions, and reduce unnecessary or inappropriate medical tests.
Patients will have more timely and easy access to their health care information, helping them to navigate the health system and take greater responsibility for their own health and well-being.
Members of our team have undergone extensive education on the Meaningful Use program and technology requirements. Our direct access to Meaningful Use program leaders at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), along with our involvement in a nationwide learning network of 61 peer programs across the country, keep us at the forefront of Meaningful Use conversations. Our team works closely with numerous certified EHR vendors, not only learning the specific nuances of each product but also helping our clients resolve complex issues with their vendors.
Team members deliver this Meaningful Use expertise to providers and practice through direct-to-provider technical assistance (TA). M-CEITA guides providers through the whole process, from determining their eligibility for the program to understanding the CMS criteria, changing and enhancing their workflows to meet quality standards, and finally attesting to Meaningful Use. Many providers are able to receive this TA at little or no cost thanks to two primary funders who subsidize this service: ONC and Michigan Medicaid. M-CEITA services are also available under a fee-for-service program to providers who do not qualify for a subsidized program.
This strategic emphasis on health IT-enabled clinical workflow redesign, along with the evolving Health Information Exchange infrastructure, is changing how primary care is delivered in Michigan. We work with providers to effectively leverage all available resources, not only to achieve Meaningful Use standards but to enable them to make lasting clinical quality improvements and process improvements that will create better health and better care at lower costs—contributing to broader health care reform. Altarum is both a thought leader and an active participant in the pursuit of more organized and accountable health care delivery. Together with RECs across the nation, we are leading the effort to assess the needs of physician offices as they participate in health care reform.