Meaningful Use Certification: Advanced Planning Can Boost Certification Rates

By Michele Judge

Meaningful Use (MU) has made - and continues to make - a significant impact upon healthcare IT. It has provided opportunity for software vendors providing electronic health records (EHR) to showcase their technical expertise with leading-edge EHR software that can help healthcare providers deliver higher quality care but, while doing so, also qualify for significant financial incentives. But as most in the industry are aware, delivering MU-compliant software is no slam dunk. Having software certified for MU requires careful attention to detail, adherence to strict timelines and the flexibility to make quick alterations to platforms.

As MU Stage 2 enters the spotlight in 2013, EHR vendors must develop a solid plan to ensure they are able to complete the process with as few interruptions to the healthcare provider as possible. Here are several planning tips that EHR vendors should heed when progressing toward MU certification:

  1. Develop a reasonable timeline. Studies show that many EHR vendors that failed in their first attempt to certify their product for Stage 1 MU did not adequately plan for the testing rigors that would ensure their EHR was capable of meeting the requirements. EHR vendors must develop a thorough - yet reasonable - timeline to increase their preparedness for certification. Fortunately, meeting Stage 2 requirements should prove easier for niche EHR vendors who only need to comply with EHR functionalities relevant to the specific practice area of their healthcare provider customers. This is a departure from Stage 1 requirements when EHR vendors needed to ensure their electronic health records met all MU standards, regardless of whether or not they applied to their specialty.
  2. Pay close attention to reporting functionality. Among the most difficult of EHR capabilities to master in Stage 1 were clinical quality measures (CQMs) and other reporting functionalities. Healthcare providers were faced with meeting a great number of complex, and sometimes ambiguous, requirements. This activity will only become more challenging as CQM becomes a core objective with greater requirements for providers. Therefore, EHR vendors must devote significant time and energy into building a solid reporting feature or risk not meeting the certification requirements.
  3. Conduct various dry runs. Perhaps the most significant reason EHR vendors may fail to meet a certification test is that they are falsely assured that their solutions are fully capable, when in fact even a small glitch can impact the entire assessment. In addition to problems anticipated with CQM reporting, EHR vendors should anticipate challenges associated with certification to process lab orders. EHR vendors must take advantage of test scripts that have been prepared and published in advance by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). As companies formulate their plan, they will review those test scripts to ensure they are including the appropriate functionalities in their system.
  4. Carefully evaluate Authorized Certification Testing Bodies (ATCBs). All certification bodies are not created equal. EHR vendors can select from several organizations for Stage 2 MU testing, which will help prevent the backlog issues that arose during Stage 1. But it could also complicate the evaluation process. A MU certification plan should include criteria for evaluating ATCBs, screening them for such factors as how much support they will offer and whether or not they have the appropriate capacity to handle a large EHR vendor load.
  5. Consider a third-party partner. Having intimate knowledge of what it takes to be certified, many firms, including Emdeon, are emerging as MU experts helping EHR vendors navigate the complex web of criteria. EHR vendors should consider bringing on an independent partner that can objectively evaluate EHR technology, looking for red flags that might derail a certification test.
For more information on partnering with Emdeon in preparation for meeting the requirement of Meaningful Use Stage 2, please contact us.

Michele Judge is Senior Director of Clinical Services at Emdeon. She has over 20 years of experience in managing, deploying and developing computerized physician order entry solutions for laboratories, hospitals and pharmacies.