Shedding Light on the Issue
How will Ben and his practice cope with more changes?
Worried about Meaningful Use?
Ben was staring at his computer screen, lost in thought, when Carmen arrived. She had sailed past the reception desk with a wave as the staff was closing up for lunch, so she hadn’t been announced. It was only a moment or two before Ben felt her presence and looked up, but it was long enough for her to register the stress Ben was feeling.
“Hey, honey,” he greeted her.
“Hey,” she said softly. “Is it that ONC HER thing?”
“ONC-certified EHR, actually, but yes, that’s what’s on my mind.”
“I thought you might be able to have lunch with me. We could talk about it over a sandwich or something,” Carmen suggested.
“Why not?” Ben agreed. They left through the back door, heading to the tree-lined parking lot. “I’m not so concerned about our software, but the meaningful use requirement might bite us. We have to look not just at what our systems can do but at what our people actually are doing.”
Carmen nodded. “I know just what you mean. At the pizzeria, we know that we have everything the health regulations require set up and in place, but follow-through is something else. People get into a hurry, or get set in their ways, or just don’t see the importance of following the rules, and first thing you know we have a scoop in the ice bin or something.”
“The stakes are high enough here that everyone ought to be on board,” Ben said. “Hey, we could just walk over to the sandwich shop.”
“Works for me,” Carmen agreed. “High stakes matter a lot as long as you’re thinking about them. But, speaking from my own experience with scoops in the ice bin, I’d say that during a normal day we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about those things. Plus, sometimes the consequences are more immediate for the people in charge than for the rank and file. If the restaurant has health code issues, it will affect everybody eventually if nothing is done, but usually it just means that I have to deal with it. Compared with the immediate convenience of leaving the scoop in the ice bin, that doesn’t seem like much to a kid who’s getting slammed with the lunchtime service.”
Ben agreed. “The possible future consequence to the group never seems as pressing as the immediate comfort of the individual.”
“Or even,” said Carmen as she added a cookie to her plate, “the possible future consequence to the individual, like what that cookie might do to my energy levels this afternoon, compared with how yummy it looks right now.”
“The issue for us is that Medicare will cut payments if we haven’t demonstrated meaningful use by October 1st.”
“So the partners with more Medicare patients might feel more motivated than those with more private insurance patients?”
“Actually,” Ben said, negotiating his way through the tables with their tray, “Medicare pretty much sets the standards for all insurers and state boards. Where Medicare goes, the rest will follow.”
“Is there really a big gap between where you are now and where you should be?” Carmen asked.
“We’ll have to figure that out. But I think it’s like your ice scoop example. We’re looking at people’s behavior and choices, not just the systems.” Ben took a bite of his sandwich. “I guess that’s what’s worrying me. People don’t like change. When we switched the light bulbs in the office it bothered people. Changes in the documentation systems bothered people. Now we’re talking about more changes.”
Disclaimer: For HIPAA compliance, all characters appearing in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons or actual events is purely coincidental.