April 22, 2015
There’s room for improvement in the number of ODs who have implemented electronic health records in their practice, the State of the Optometric Profession, a report sponsored by Essilor and VisionWeb, suggests: “As of 2012, some 49 percent of ODs reported using an EHR system in their primary practice, up from 41 percent in 2011. An additional 18 percent of ODs indicated they plan to add EHR during the current year.”
Access to patients is fundamentally important to the practice. As we move deeper into implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a narrowing of third-party networks is occurring. Some of it has been obvious from news reports of doctors being thrown off provider panels. Most of it is behind the scenes as networks are experimenting with sub-panels trying to work out the bugs before moving from small, controlled networks to the entire universe of patients. When that happens within the next two years, there will be winners and losers. The winners will be inside the narrowed networks. The losers will be excluded from the narrowed networks.
How can you position your practice now to make yourself attractive to the narrowed networks? One of the most important ways is to make it through the Meaningful Use stages. Meaningful Use is one of the central components of the new healthcare environment. In a simplified way, Meaningful Use Stage 1 is to get all doctors up to speed with government-approved software, so healthcare providers can talk to each other electronically. Meaningful Use Stage 2 is to get healthcare providers to actually talk to each other and to patients. Meaningful Use Stage 3 is to get healthcare providers and patients to work toward improved healthcare outcomes.
If your practice has not shown proficiency with Meaningful Use, then you are not able to communicate with other healthcare providers or patients in the same way as everyone else in the narrowed network. To put it bluntly, you are on a path that will cause you to be on the outside of the narrowed networks of the ACA. You will still be able to provide vision care (ie: glasses and contacts), but you will not be able to provide and be reimbursed for medical healthcare. Are you really willing to give up that part of your practice?
Here’s a key point: We are not going back to the old way of delivering healthcare in the US. Most Republicans – there are a few exceptions – are no longer talking about repealing the ACA. At best, they are talking about replacing or improving the ACA. In either case, advances such as Meaningful Use will be part of whatever the Republicans may pass legislatively. Since Democrats are not going to repeal the ACA, that means the bottom line is that Meaningful Use is here to stay.
Your action plan this week is to review your Meaningful Use status. The potential loss is too great to wait. Your plan should be to get to Meaningful Use Stage 3 as quickly as possible.