Many factors go into the decision to purchase an EHR—cost, functionality, usability, and vendor support among them. The government hopes to add one more factor into the EHR decision: meaningful use. Most practices looking for an EHR these days won’t even consider an EHR unless it has been meaningful use certified. For this reason alone, the government meaningful use incentive program has succeeded somewhat in persuading doctors to switch to electronic health records.
Nonetheless, meaningful use shouldn’t be the sole reason for adopting an EHR. Doctors had plenty of good reasons to adopt before the meaningful use program was launched, and they will continue to do so regardless of how the MU program evolves. EHR is about more than just qualifying for government incentives. The vision behind EHRs is, and always has been, to improve efficiency throughout the office and to improve patient care. The EHR incentives offered by the government provide an added benefit to making the switch now rather than later, and have given a lot of practices a push in the right direction.
Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health IT, often says that meaningful use should be a journey, not a destination. In other words, a practice’s EHR implementation will be far more successful if MU is a means to an end rather than the ultimate goal. Many of the meaningful use regulations align with aspects of the vision behind EHR, such as better patient care and greater efficiency. Clinics that align their EHR implementation goals with the goals the clinic already has in place are likely to achieve their goals, and receive meaningful use rewards as well.
The reasons for the meaningful use program are sound, but physicians should take care to narrowly focus on just the meaningful use payments.