The Meaning of Meaningful Use

ONC-bestPTIs Shannon wasting her time worrying – or fooling herself by thinking she has nothing to worry about?

Mike made a beeline for the sofa as soon as he got through the door of his home. He flopped down on his stomach with an arm and a leg dangling limply to the floor.

“Rough night?” Shannon asked her husband.

“Hey,” Mike mumbled without moving, “I didn’t think you’d still be up.”

“Your belly flop onto the couch woke me up.” Shannon perched on the edge of the sofa and rubbed her husband’s back. “No, don’t apologize. I wasn’t really asleep. Work stuff was keeping me awake anyway.”

Mike turned over and made room for Shannon. “Tell me about it.”

“You first.”

“Nothing wrong here,” Mike assured her. “It’s true that I’m beat, but that’s because the restaurant was super busy. I might need to hire a couple more people.”

“That’s great!” Shannon said. “Mine’s not really a big problem. It’s more like I’m not sure what I need to do.”

“I probably don’t know, either,” Mike said, “but I’m willing to listen. If we talk it out, we can both get to sleep.”

“It’s another government regulation.”

Mike rolled his eyes.

“I got a newsletter from one of my professional organizations today talking about it, and I don’t know what to do. By October 1st, all healthcare providers are supposed to be able to show meaningful use of an ONC-certified EHR, or we get paid less by Medicare.”

Mike stared at Shannon uncomprehendingly.

“EHR stands for electronic health records. That just means we have to keep client records on the computer.”

“You already do that.”

“Right. ONC means — let me get this right — the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. So we have to make sure that our health records are certified by that office.”

“That part shouldn’t be hard. They probably just have a list of certified software or something.”

“I guess. But then we have to demonstrate meaningful use — like, that we’re using the EHR in a meaningful way. I’m not sure what that means, frankly, or how it applies to physical therapists.”

“But you do get paid by Medicare.”

“I sure do. They’re one of our top payers, so I can see that I have to do something about this, but I’m not sure what.”

Mike nodded. “And of course there’s a deadline, so as usual it’s a matter of finding the time to get everything done.”

“Exactly. I don’t have a lot of free time as it is.”

“Tell me about it!”

“The kids’ll be home for the summer, so I’m already looking at having to line up summer camps and classes and all that, plus the family vacation we’re planning, and as soon as everything settles back down in the fall, that deadline will be here.”

Mike folded his arms under his head. “Sounds like you’re worrying before you need to. Or at least before you know that you need to. Let’s go get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow you can find out exactly what you have to do — if anything.”

“Fair enough,” Shannon smiled. Maybe it wouldn’t be as big a deal as she feared.

Is Shannon wasting her time worrying – or fooling herself by thinking she has nothing to worry about?