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  • April 18 2011

    A Physician's Road to Meaningful Use

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    At River Falls Medical Clinic, the basic question we ask whenever we embark on any kind of endeavor is, "How does this help our patients?" From the day we began using Cerner's Ambulatory Electronic Health Record (EHR) solution in 2010, it was our goal to utilize the EHR to its full extent for the benefit of our workflow and the care we deliver to our patients. When the government announced Meaningful Use requirements, we were quick to notice that the proposed criteria would help us to better utilize our EHR to give our patients things they are not getting now. We eagerly jumped on board and made it our own personal goal to be prepared to “push the button” on April 18 – as one of the very first physicians in the country to be Meaningful Use certified.

    At RFMC, we believe that early certification will enable us to best prepare our team of 23 doctors for any unforeseen snags or last minute rules changes. With a large, multi-doctor office, our plan is to position one or two of our physicians as pilots who can get in on the ground level to work out any kinks and then provide valuable feedback to the remainder of our internal colleagues who will be prepared to proceed. Additionally, being one of the first puts us in a position to help colleagues and those within our broad community when they have questions such as, “How did you get through this piece?” or “What did you do to make this work?”

    On the road to becoming Meaningful Use certified, our team has worked very closely together, which enabled a smooth transition as we adopt the Meaningful Use guidelines. Our managers and leads have organized our process and carefully laid out each step. Our first move was to work with our scheduling registration manager to begin collecting the demographic requirements mandated such as age, sex and race. Our clinical service manager simultaneously made the required changes in documentation and began tracking vitals and smoking habits. From here, we engaged with our EHR vendor, Cerner.

    Cerner has played a large part in our success. Early on, we began working with Karen Berg, a Cerner Ambulatory director, who came to our clinic to meet with our quality physicians walk us through the process of getting signed up for Meaningful Use. Berg worked through our questions to help physicians get ready to attest. She highlighted the need for us to prepare for Meaningful Use and beyond and laid out foundational steps for us to focus on patient care beyond Meaningful Use. We have been pleasantly surprised by the wealth of resources available through uCern, a collaborative website for Cerner clients, and we use them regularly. Additionally, our office manager receives regular emails from a group of people at Cerner who are dedicated to help their clients attest and prepare for certification. On our behalf, Cerner also works hand-in-hand with Wisconsin Health Information Technology Extension Center (WHITEC), a health information technology extension group that our peer review organization put us in touch with. WHITEC has been very helpful for directing us through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website and doing research around questions that arise.

    Meaningful Use criteria requires many steps that our office already planned to adopt in the near future. However, with the Meaningful Use push, our adoption timeline changed, which helped us to provide better patient care through pieces such as physician order entry, patient education and patient depart summaries. We were most surprised by the value of the departure summary. It's an extra step that we did not previously do, however it carries a great value, especially with our complicated Medicare population. The fact that a Meaningful Use criterion is pushing us to do things that we have been slower to adopt is wonderful for our patients. Of course, we would eventually get around to these things, but improving patient care now is much better than later.

    It's evident to our staff and to our physician colleagues that the EHR industry is progressing to enable us as physicians to provide better care for our patients. Meaningful Use is the way the industry is going and we're on board with a focus on our abilities to better our care – it's a job standard to move in this direction. So, jump on board with us. We'd be eager to hear about your personal experience in getting to Meaningful Use certification. 

    Christopher H. Tashjian, MD is the president of River Falls, Ellsworth & Spring Valley Medical Clinics in Wisconsin. The three clinics provide primary care services as well as specialty consults. Dr. Tashjian implemented Cerner's Ambulatory EHR in March of 2010 after several years of working with Cerner's PWPM solution. 

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