Special Report: Meaningful Use Program Office                                                              

The Importance of a Meaningful Use Program Office in attaining Stage 1 Compliance and Positioning for Stage 2

At the end of 2011, the federal government reported that some 604 hospitals and more than 15,000 eligible professionals had successfully attested to the Stage 1 requirements of Meaningful Use.  The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) deemed these numbers to be significant and proof that the program was working.  In our opinion, at best, this was an “OK” start for the first year but certainly less providers in total than originally hoped for.  A far greater number of hospitals and eligible providers have deemed 2012 as their target for Stage 1 compliance.

From a hospital standpoint, 2012 is not the drop-dead year for Stage 1 attainment, although Critical Access Hospitals need to meet this timeframe in order to optimize the number of years that they can earn Medicare incentives dollars.  The other primary reason to attest in 2012 is that it will give the hospital an extra year to prepare for Stage 2 (2014) which by all current indications will be exponentially more complex than Stage 1.

Most hospitals and health systems don’t have the staff and/or skill sets available to provide the focus, time and effort required to ensure successful compliance in this abbreviated timeframe.  Bringing in a third party that has a successful track record in developing and managing a Meaningful Use Program Office (MUPO) and making it part of your internal leadership team can be an excellent approach.  Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, the MUPO can be anywhere from quarter time to fulltime for one to two FTEs over a 6 – 18 month timeframe.  Typically, each program is developed based on the specific requirements of the hospital and is designed to provide Meaningful Use subject matter expertise and the level of guidance required to attain the objectives.

The benefits of an MUPO for your organization can be many, here are just a few:

Provides subject matter expertise on health IT, meaningful use, health reform, ICD-10 and the challenges your organization will encounter in achieving meaningful use and successfully positioning for the ongoing transformation of the healthcare industry

The MUPO has the knowledge and experience to perform a detailed assessment and assist your team in creating  a complete project workplan designed to close the gaps between current state and future state which is the first step in any Meaningful Use attainment plan

Develops the appropriate  governance structure and the executive support required for success

Understands the proposed Stage 2 requirements and incorporates that knowledge into the Stage 1 attainment plan to ensure that the hospital focus is on the “Big” picture

Provides experience in successful physician alignment and adoption strategies

Develops staffing assessments, retention planning and provides recommendations on workforce requirements during and after EHR implementation and adoption

Understands and will recommend an appropriate balance of priorities to optimize efficiency and minimize new capital and operating cost increases

Can provide techniques and guidance to manage your vendors

Has the expertise to assist with identifying, negotiating and securing funding for the project

For most hospitals and health systems Meaning Use Program Office is a smart investment.  Obviously, you must perform a thorough due diligence of the consulting firms providing this service. This is a relatively new area for many firms, so the more experience and references you can attain the better.  In addition, since the project duration is typically long and the consultant needs to be a member of your executive team it is also important to take some time to get to know the firm and employees providing the services to ensure a “good fit”.  The guidance provided through the experience and compatibility of the appropriate consulting firm will pay off in spades by significantly increasing your probability of meeting Stage 1 Meaningful Use and just as importantly positioning your organization for success in Stage 2 and beyond.

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