A change in the tide: specialty practices reaching for meaningful use
Thanks to a life-long aversion to mold, pollen and trees, I’ve navigated my fair share of allergy practices to seek treatment with immunizations. In the past handful of years alone, I’ve sought care at three clinics, all in separate states, and the process of switching providers has been almost as painful as my symptoms of watery eyes and congestion. While navigating various practices, the process of transferring shot serum formulas and health records has proven to be a pain point, resulting in unnecessary testing, appointments and fees.
In an era of so much connectivity, and the rise of electronic health records and patient portals to achieve Meaningful Use, why has my transition between providers been such a hassle? Well, the answer is simple—specialty care settings simply lag behind as evidenced by PhysBizTech in 2012 and a subsequent study by Billian’s HealthData.
However, just over a year later, the tide is starting to change. As I switched to my current allergist in early 2013, I was amazed at the heightened care I received. During my consultation appointment, the physician worked on his tablet to access my records, take notes and review my immunization history. Upon check-out, the receptionist offered to register me for a patient portal, a tool that I use to stay on top of my immunization schedule. And it seems my refreshing experience has not gone unnoticed by the industry:
- As of 2012, 76% of dentists used computers while consulting patients, nearly tripling that statistic from 2004. Furthermore, within the next two years, adoption rates could rise to 90%.
- Hampshire OB-GYN began using EHRs in 2004 before MU was even a glint in our eye. However, only recently did it meet the requirements to achieve Stage 1 of MU through such measures as recording patient ethnicity and ensuring all patient problem lists were updated.
- Regional extension centers have been instrumental in increasing EHR adoption among providers by providing necessary support. Take the New Jersey Health Information Technology Extension Center (NJ-HITEC), for example, which helped 199 specialist providers attest for the first year of Meaningful Use during 2012. It is also facilitating EHR implementation for behavioral health organizations to improve interoperability with primary care providers, leading to improved care delivery to patients.
- Rhode Island Regional Extension Center (RI REC) launched its EHR Adoption Program for Specialists, allowing specialty practices to receive support formerly limited to certain primary care providers. As of February, the Adoption Program guided more than 1,000 Rhode Island providers toward Stage 1 Meaningful Use of EHRs, generating more than $3 million in federal EHR incentive payments to RI REC members.
From this encouraging information, and as Stage 2 Meaningful Use looms on the horizon, the patient in all of us can look forward to receiving improved and streamlined care not simply from our general practitioner, but also when seeking treatment from a specialist. And, I can look forward to my allergy symptoms being more problematic than the process of navigating to a new provider.