Key Health Care IT Trends
The good news is that primary focus now seems to be squarely on improving the overall quality of health care and the reduction of human errors.
In fact, "meaningful use" is not only not impossible, but Kern Medical Center CEO Paul Hensler told me last week the California county hospital doesn't see any obstacle that would keep it from satisfying the "meaningful use" objectives in time to qualify for the first phase of HITECH Act incentive funds. He said:
We were pretty much prepared to meet all of the meaningful use criteria, so now that we can pick and choose a little, it should be a lot easier for us.
He's referring, of course, to the changes the Department of Health and Human Services recently made in scaling back the meaningful use requirements. For example, Ropes & Gray partner Michael Beauvais explained in a recent IT Business Edge interview, that under the Medicare incentive program, hospitals must now satisfy 15 clinical quality objectives instead of 34, and physicians must meet six - three mandatory and three optional.
So how is it that a county hospital with limited funds has no qualms about meeting the requirements while its private counterparts are scrambling to ensure they get some of the stimulus money that's on the table?
Hensler said Medsphere was the only company that KMC could find that offered consulting services for installing an entire Open Vista system across inpatient and outpatient facilities as well as in some of the hospital's partner clinics in the community. And the whole process has not only been smooth, but quick. He explained:
In county terms, going from a first meeting in August to a contract in November and being up and running a year later is kind of lightning speed.
In the quest for HITECH Act incentives, it doesn't hurt KMC that a significant portion of its patients are indigent or receive MediCal or Medicare benefits. But the speed with which everything is happening also means "meaningful use" is that much easier to reach. "Obviously," Hensler said, "hitting the first phase of meaningful use is very important to us."