The federal meaningful use program created a “significant practice burden without clear benefits to patient care,” but policymakers should drill down into the different aspects of MU and figure out what’s working and what needs improving, according to a report in the JAMIA.
A 2015 survey of 480 family physicians found that 18 of 31 MU criteria were considered useful for more than half of patient encounters, with 13 of those useful for more than two-thirds. Thirteen were useful for less than half of patient encounters, and four were deemed burdensome.
The study authors said MU Stage 1 criteria were the most beneficial for physicians. This stage related to basic or routine care. Physicians felt Stage 2, which was more complex and population care, was less beneficial and more burdensome.
When MU was implemented, it was seen as a way to get more providers to use EHRs. As part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, the federal government instituted MU incentive payments for providers that use EHRs. Incentive payments range from $44,000 over five years to $63,750 over six years.
MU has been a success in many ways. The program has paid out more than $37 billion, and as of 2016, about 95% of eligible hospitals had received an MU designation.
However, some aspects of MU created another regulatory barrier for providers. This study looked at the benefits and burdens, such as added workload. For family physicians, this has been a chief complaint about MU. After MU implementation, the American Academy of Family Physicians said the physician complaints were focused on four areas: workflow disruptions, connectivity issues, personnel and cost.
The program taking the place of MU, Advancing Care Information, will score providers on 15 measurers, including e-prescribing and patient access. This latest report shows how lessons learned from MU could be useful as efforts continue to push providers toward effective EHRs.